John Edwards Faces Federal Investigation Involving Campaign Funds
The two-time Democratic presidential candidate acknowledged Sunday that investigators are assessing how he spent his campaign funds -- a subject that could carry his extramarital affair from the tabloids to the courtroom. Edwards' political action committee paid more than $100,000 for video production to the firm of the woman with whom Edwards had an affair.
The former North Carolina senator said in a carefully worded statement that he is cooperating.
"I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly," Edwards said in the statement. "However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the United States both the people and the information necessary to help them get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely matter."
While Edwards focused his comment on campaign funds, he also had a range of other fundraising organizations -- including two nonprofits and a poverty center at his alma mater -- that have come under scrutiny.
Chief among them was the PAC that paid Rielle Hunter's company for several months in 2006 for Web videos that documented Edwards' travels and advocacy in the months leading up to his 2008 presidential campaign. The committee also paid her firm an additional $14,086.50 on April 1, 2007.
Edwards acknowledged the affair with Hunter last year, months after dropping his presidential bid.
At the time of the 2007 payment, the PAC only had $7,932.95 in cash on hand, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission. That day, according to the records, Edwards' presidential campaign paid the PAC $14,034.61 for what is listed as a "furniture purchase."
Willfully converting money from a political action committee for personal use is a federal crime.
The furniture money was one of just five contributions to the political action committee between April 1 to June 30, 2007. The other four were on June 30, the last day of the reporting period, including a $3,000 contribution from the wife of Edwards' finance chairman, Fred Baron.
Baron, Edwards' national finance chairman and a wealthy Dallas-based trial attorney, said last year that he quietly began sending money to Hunter to resettle in California. He said no campaign funds were used and that Hunter was not working for the campaign when he started giving her money.
Edwards has said he was unaware of the payments. Baron died of cancer in October.
U.S. Attorney George Holding has declined to comment and said he won't confirm or deny an investigation.
Kate Michelman, a former head of the abortion-rights group NARAL who advised the Edwards campaign, said she hopes there was no wrongdoing.
"All of us remain very saddened by what has happened to John, because he was right on the policies," Michelman said Sunday. "It remains a very sad occurrence for all of us. It's sad for John and Elizabeth, and this is just one more problem for them to deal with."
Edwards, 55, powered onto the national scene in 1998, when he won a seat for the U.S. Senate in his first political campaign. With smooth speech and good looks, the former trial lawyer ran for the White House in 2004 and was tapped as Sen. John Kerry's running mate. He returned to the campaign trail in a 2008 presidential bid but was largely overshadowed by a duel between Hillary Clinton, vying to be the first female president, and Barack Obama, who did become the first black president.
Since announcing the affair, Edwards has remained largely secluded, and he canceled all his public appearances before the November election because he said he didn't want to be a distraction for Obama.
His wife, Elizabeth, who is terminally ill with cancer, will soon be releasing a book talking about the affair. In it, she writes that news of the affair made her vomit. She also describes Hunter as "pathetic."