Edwards Indictment Paints Troubling Picture: Statement of Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director


The allegations unveiled in the indictment against former Senator John Edwards regarding the conduct of his Presidential campaign are deeply disturbing. The alleged payments of “hush money” raise the specter of political influence-peddling in the form of “gifts” to candidates in high-stakes campaigns.

To let these actions pass without bringing them to a court of law would be to set a dangerous precedent, allowing candidates and public officials to put themselves on the auction block and accept, under the guise of gifts, financial favors given with the intention of furthering their political careers. Such actions would seriously undermine public confidence in our public officials and our democracy. Given that the case concerns a campaign for the highest office in the land, it is important for the case to be presented in a court of law with an opportunity for a judge and jury to assess the alleged criminal violations and for the public to gain a clearer understanding of what actually occurred. We will be watching with special interest the prosecution’s case on the illegal contribution counts.

Hopefully this indictment is an indication that the long hibernation is over for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Public Integrity Section. The section certainly should be taking another and more in-depth look at the similar issues raised in the case of former Senator John Ensign by the Senate Ethics Committee after DOJ had dropped its own investigation.

Also, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) should make publicly clear whether it has investigated the serious allegations of campaign finance violations brought to light in the Edwards indictment. Unfortunately the agency’s recent track record for enforcing the law is shameful. The fact that these scandals first emerged years ago and that no public action has been taken to date by the FEC does not signal that the agency will start to vigorously enforce the laws on the books.