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Arbitrary campaign finance prosecution department

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In North Carolina, John Edwards is currently standing trial for alleged felonies related to campaign finance violations: it is claimed that the Edwards campaign coordinated over a million dollars of third-party payments to Edwards's mistress, Rielle Hunter, to buy her silence for fear that Hunter talking would adversely affect Edwards's presidential campaign; the third-party contributions should be considered illegal "contributions," according to prosecutors. As Bradley Smith, among others, has noted, this seems abusive to take such a grey area of the law and turn it into a criminal prosecution, especially since Edwards had non-campaign reasons—a desire to hide the affair from his wife—to engage in such shenanigans. (Earlier on POL; and indictment coverage.)

In apparently entirely unrelated news, the New York Post reports that, in conjunction with Barack Obama's personal request, an Obama campaign supporter attempted to pay the Reverend Jeremiah Wright $150,000 to keep quiet during the 2008 presidential campaign, for fear that if Wright publicly talked too much, it would adversely affect Obama's presidential campaign. There doesn't seem to be anything other than political reasons to keep Wright quiet, since Mrs. Obama was present at the same controversial anti-American sermons that Obama supporters feared Wright would talk about. Nevertheless, not even the New York Post suggests the need for prosecutors, and I seem to be the only blogger asking why this payment isn't more problematic than the one Edwards is being prosecuted for.

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As always, the wrongdoing is not in the actual deed, but how it is accomplished. Edward's actions and Obama's proposition neglected the intermediate steps that would have legitimized the transactions.

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

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