The watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) usually files ethics complaints against politicians.
But not in the John Edwards case.
CREW plans to file an amicus brief supporting the former Democratic presidential candidate, who was indicted for alleged criminal violations of campaign finance laws during his ill-fated 2008 campaign, the group’s executive director, Melanie Sloan, said.
In an interview with Main Justice, Sloan argued that the case is “ridiculous.” She said there is no basis for the indictment; that there are no examples of even remotely similar prosecutions, and that the prosecution is built upon a unique interpretation of a campaign contribution.
“None of the money was ever filtered through the campaign,” she said, adding that the indictment is constructed around a flawed legal argument that “almost anything that has any benefit to any candidate in any way is a contribution.”
She said that the Federal Elections Commission never cited campaign violations by Edwards. Sloan called the case “ridiculous”, and described it as an abuse of the justice system.
“The Department of Justice should be embarrassed,” she said. “This is a public integrity section that thinks its too hard to prosecute John Ensign, but they can prosecute John Edwards?” she asked, referring to the former Nevada Senator who resigned in May amid a Senate ethics probe, which concluded that there is “substantial and credible evidence” of Ensign having committed federal crimes to cover up his own extramarital affair.
The failure of DOJ to drop charges against Edwards, in Sloan’s opinion, stems, in part, from Edwards’ unpopularity. Edward’s mistress, Rielle Hunter, became pregnant during the 2008 presidential campaign, while the former senator’s wife, Elizabeth, was suffering from terminal breast cancer. Elizabeth Edwards had separated from her husband prior to her death and was planning to divorce him.
The Obama administration, Slaon said, “didn’t want to defend John Edwards because they didn’t want Republicans screaming to the media.”
“No one is crying tears for John Edwards but our criminal justice system is based on conduct not character.”
“I wouldn’t want John Edwards as my friend,” she added, “but that does not make him a criminal.”
Edwards’ lawyers, in a motion to dismiss the case, argue that the man who filed charges against Edwards, the former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, George Holding, was motivated by politics to indict the former senator. Holding, who had close ties with North Carolina conservatives, resigned shorty after filing the indictment and embarked upon on a campaign for the Republican nomination for a House seat.
In addition, despite Holding’s involvement, none of the alleged violations occurred in the Middle District of North Carolina.
Sloan said that she would be “shocked” if Edwards’ motion to dismiss the case is denied.
Edwards is expected to stand trial in January.
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