Federal prosecutors are arguing that a prominent Democratic attorney in Los Angeles violated the spirit of the Federal Election Campaign Act when he made donations to John Edwards’s 2004 presidential campaign in his clients’ names, The National Law Journal reports.
Plaintiff attorney Pierce O’Donnell in 2003 donated $26,000 to Edwards’s campaign in the names of 13 other people, the government has alleged.
In June, a California judge dismissed the bulk of charges against O’Donnell. The ruling by U.S. District Judge S. James Otero was a setback for then-U.S. Attorney Tom O’Brien, a Bush appointee who resigned earlier this month to join the Paul Hastings law firm.
While FECA does not specifically address “conduit” or “indirect” contributions, federal prosecutors believe the donations violated the intention of the law, The NLJ reported. The law says: ”No person shall make a contribution in the name of another person or knowingly permit his name to be used to effect such a contribution, and no person shall knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in the name of another person.”
The brief filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit was signed by acting U.S. Attorney George C. Cardona and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christine C. Ewell and Erik M. Silber. The prosecutors wrote, “The question is not whether Congress could have used different words, but whether the wording Congress actually chose embraces the conduct at issue; here, it does.” They added, “There is no functional difference between contributing using a false name and contributing using the name of a straw donor.”
O’Donnell is represented by George J. Terwilliger III, a partner at White & Case.