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.
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The Senate confirmed the Bush appointee in October 2007. We previously reported on a couple of controversies surrounding the former Navy Top Gun instructor and gang prosecutor.
O’Brien issued a secret memo in February that directed prosecutors to cease filing charges against clinics that distributed medical marijuana. The ban came shortly after Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would not raid medicinal marijuana facilities that are legal under state law.
The U.S. Attorney dropped the embargo in March and then went on to win the case against California pot dispensary owner Charles Lynch in June. Medical marijuana supporters said the successful prosecution would have a chilling effect on efforts to protect medicinal pot.
O’Brien was also criticized when he lost the bulk of his case against Democratic donor Pierce O’Donnell, who was accused of illegally reimbursing employees for contributions to John Edwards’s 2004 presidential campaign. U.S. District Judge S. James Otero threw out the majority of the charges against O’Donnell in June.
O’Donnell lawyer George Terwilliger said O’Brien “overreached” in his prosecution. The defense team had questioned whether Bush-appointed O’Brien targeted O’Donnell for his representation of Hurricane Katrina victims in a lawsuit against the U.S., and because he’d criticized Bush’s civil rights policies after the 9/11 attacks. Read our previous report here.
The U.S. Attorney, however, was lauded for fighting gang crime. He received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service – the highest award given by the Attorney General — for his efforts in probing and prosecuting gang members.
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A California judge on Monday dropped the bulk of charges against a prominent Democratic attorney accused of illegally reimbursing employees for contributions to John Edwards’s 2004 presidential campaign. Read the Los Angeles Times story here. Read the National Law Journal story here.
“The charges were dismissed because the U.S. attorney overreached in an attempt to use the law far more broadly than its terms allow,” Pierce O’Donnell’s attorney, George Terwilliger, said in a prepared statement, the LA Times reported.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge S. James Otero was a setback to U.S. Attorney Tom O’Brien in LA. The lawyer’s defense team had questioned whether Bush-appointed O’Brien targeted O’Donnell for his representation of Hurricane Katrina victims in a lawsuit against the U.S., and because he’d criticized Bush’s civil rights policies after the 9/11 attacks.
A spokesman for O’Brien said the office was reviewing the ruling and deciding whether to appeal.