WRAL Investigates

Expert: Money used to hide Edwards' affair may have broken law

Posted February 4, 2010

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— A political science professor said Thursday that any money used to cover up an extramarital affair by two-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards likely broke federal campaign finance laws.

A federal grand jury in Raleigh has been investigating whether any money from the Edwards campaign was used illegally to hide the affair with Rielle Hunter.

Money Prof: Money on side still campaign donation

Andrew Young, a former Edwards aide, said more than $1 million was spent to conceal the affair with Hunter, a campaign staffer hired to produce promotional videos.

"I heard one of the jets to get Rielle out of the country cost $55,000 to $60,000," Young told WRAL News.

Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, heiress to the fortunes of 19th century industrialist Andrew Mellon and the founder of the Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company, gave Edwards at least $700,000 to cover expenses for Hunter, according to Young. He said Texas lawyer Fred Baron, who was Edwards' campaign finance chairman, funded other expenses.

"We were living in a house that I co-signed with Fred that was $20,000 a month," Young said, noting that his family went into hiding with Hunter in California in 2007.

At the time, Hunter was pregnant, and Young claimed to be the father of the child. Edwards admitted last month that he was the father of Hunter's daughter, who turns 2 this month.

"Fred supported John as long as he was a viable candidate," Young said.

The money was given on the side, not as campaign donations, Young said, adding that Baron knew what it was for but that Mellon did not.

"Bunny never knew what the money was for. She knew it was for an outside campaign expense," he said.

Still, Peace College political science professor David McLennan said that the money could still be considered a campaign expense in the eyes of the law because the motivation behind the donation was to get the candidate elected.

"If you look at federal election law related to campaigns, it says any gift influencing the outcome of an election needs to be reported," McLennan said. "I think there's a very important message when you're talking about what happened with the money in terms of trying to influence the election."

Wade Smith, Edwards' lawyer, previously said that no campaign funds were used to conceal the affair, but he recently declined to stand by that statement.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to talk about it at all," Smith told WRAL News. "It's a logical question, and I understand why you would ask it, but it would be inappropriate for me to talk about that."

Young testified last summer to the grand jury. He said he was asked about checks that went through a foundation with ties to Edwards.

Hunter spent nine hours in the federal courthouse in Raleigh last August on a day when the grand jury was meeting, but it's unclear whether she testified since grand jury proceedings are secret.

Baron died of cancer in 2008.

Edwards visited Mellon's Virginia farm in December, but neither he nor Smith would disclose the purpose of the trip.

15 Comments

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  • familyfour Feb 5, 2010

    YA THINK!?!?!?!?

    Expert.....to tell us that!?

    Yet, another waste of our hard earned money wasted....

  • pyrosinthesky Feb 5, 2010

    > This money was not given to the campaign fund but outside of it.

    Exactly why they are in big trouble.

  • wolff Feb 5, 2010

    "wolff, the problem is that Bunny Mellon reported said she'd do 'whatever it takes' to get Edwards elected, from paying for his haircuts to whatever else he needed. Since she was giving him money to help with the goal of getting elected, her gifts would be campaign contributions"
    caroll2

    This money was not given to the campaign fund but outside of it. If she was helping out his problem and knew what it was going for its not against the law. You'd have to prove she didn't. They money wasn't given to him or the fund, but someone else 'not' related to the campaign.

  • wildcat Feb 5, 2010

    Correction: 5 years in prison if Edwards stole the money for his personal use.

  • wildcat Feb 5, 2010

    If this is true, then maybe John Edwards should pay all the money back and spend a little time in prison for stealing. % years would be good.

  • caroll2 Feb 5, 2010

    wolff, the problem is that Bunny Mellon reported said she'd do 'whatever it takes' to get Edwards elected, from paying for his haircuts to whatever else he needed. Since she was giving him money to help with the goal of getting elected, her gifts would be campaign contributions

  • wolff Feb 5, 2010

    This article doesn't make any sense at all. Last time I checked if you wanted to spend your money or your good friends gave you money to spend on a mistress it was legal and the government can't do anything about it (and shouldn't).

    Unless he actually used money someone gave to his campaign for the propose of the campaign and used that on this mistress, then there isn't anything here at all.

    Although you could almost argue keeping a mistress out of the news would be beneficial to a campaign, haha.

  • Feb 5, 2010

    As Edwards favorite blogger Johnny Reb said years ago, your disrespect of the Southern Gentlemen will catch up to you. I am ashamed to live close enough to hear his family ripping apart. Maybe his next sex video will be from behind bars.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Feb 5, 2010

    Edwards will soon be sharing a jail cell with Jim Black and Mike Easley.

  • caroll2 Feb 5, 2010

    This isn't news. As xandevalinour said, many have been saying this-- and it's been the subject of an investigation--for months. (My guess is there will be indictments after Bunny Mellon passes because no one wants to drag a 99 yo to court.)

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