Local Politics

Widow of Edwards campaign financier at Raleigh courthouse

Posted January 5, 2011 9:51 a.m. EST
Updated January 5, 2011 7:14 p.m. EST

— The widow of Fred Baron, the finance chairman of John Edwards' presidential campaigns, appeared Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Raleigh, where a grand jury is investigating Edwards' campaign spending.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, but Edwards' attorney has said the panel is looking into Edwards' campaign finances to determine whether any funds were used improperly, including whether money was used to hide an affair Edwards had with staffer Rielle Hunter.

Hunter gave birth to a girl in February 2008, and Edwards has admitted the child is his daughter.

During the 2008 campaign, Edwards' top aide, Andrew Young, said he was the father of Hunter's child, and Baron provided money so Hunter, Young and Young's family to move from the Triangle to California to get out of the campaign spotlight.

Young claims in his tell-all book, "The Politician," that Baron flew them on his private jet to a home in Aspen, Colo., and then paid for Hunter and the Youngs to live in a home in California that cost $20,000 a month.

Young also said in a February 2010 interview with WRAL News that Baron paid him $325,000 to finish his home near Chapel Hill during the time in California so he could sell the house and wouldn't have to return to North Carolina.

Baron, a Dallas lawyer, died of cancer in 2008. It's unclear whether his widow, Lida Blue-Baron, has any inside knowledge of his financial dealings.

Last month, two former campaign aides and four family members of a wealthy Edwards donor also appeared at the federal courthouse while the grand jury was in session.

Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the 100-year-old heiress to the fortunes of both 19th century industrialist Andrew Mellon and the Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company, now part of Pfizer, was a major political contributor to Edwards in his 2008 presidential campaign. She gave $3.4 million in late 2007 to The Alliance for a New America, a nonprofit supporting his candidacy.

She also gave $700,000 to Young, and the money is said to have been used to pay for expenses incurred by Hunter.

Hunter and her daughter appeared at the federal courthouse in August 2009. Other former campaign aides also have apparently testified before the grand jury.

Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina, has denied wrongdoing.