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A More Skeptical View of the Edwards Prosecution

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Two of our most thoughtful readers, mjs and federalist, have noted, in their comments to my earlier post, that there are reasons a fair-minded person could have doubts about the Edwards prosecution.  Federalist concentrates on the stretch needed to apply the statutory language to Edwards' behavior (or, indeed, merely behavior from which Edwards benefited), while mjs thinks this might be taken by the jury as an example of federal over-reaching.

Their concerns are shared by my friend John Hinderaker, writing on Powerline.  John notes: 

I am no fan of John Edwards, but this prosecution strikes me as unfortunate. Based on a quick review, it does not seem to be an indefensible application of the campaign finance laws, although the government's theory, as Edwards' lawyer put it, is "novel and untested." But what's the point? The campaign finance laws are intended to keep candidates on a level playing field. (Some would say they are mainly intended to promote the re-election of incumbents, but that is a debate for another day.) The money that was spent here didn't go for campaign ads or get-out-the-vote efforts. It was invisible to voters. It allowed Edwards to keep his wife (and voters too, of course) in the dark about his girlfriend and baby and relieved Edwards of the need to support them. Those are hardly noble objectives, but is policing this sort of misconduct really the function of campaign finance laws?

John's entire piece is worth the read.  But I have to confess that, as a former AUSA, I would pay good money to be part of the prosecution team for this one.

3 Comments

You flatter me. "Thoughtful"? The sobriety of this blog must be rubbing off on me.

Another reason for my skepticism over this matter involves the role of our ham-handed AG.

Although the merits of this prosecution have not yet been decided, Eric Holder's uncanny, unerring, ability to make the "wrong" call on nearly all matters of dicretion is mindboggling.


federalist,

You're as thoughtful as they come, for my money. You just don't mince words.

mjs,

It occured to me that Holder might have gone along with the prosecution (1) precisely because he knows that the public increasingly suspects that DOJ decisions under his stewardship have been political (an impression enhanced only recently by reversing course on the defense of DOMA); and (2) because he can get brownie points at low cost through the Edwards prosecution -- Holder certainly knows that Edwards is already dead meat politically, so why not make him the poster boy for "bipartisan" standards at DOJ? (Indeed, Edwards is so toxic that I suspect he can't even get his calls returned anymore by his inside-the-Beltway ex-pals).

Still, on balance I think Holder is acting in good faith on this one. I can't say I know him, but I met him a couple of times along the way, and he always struck me as a friendly, straightforward and open person.

Like you, however, I have been very disappointed in his tenure. His liberal instincts are now unleavened by any of the countervailing forces that used to be there. I can't even imagine the left-wing hothouse atmosphere hanging over everything on the fifth floor at Main Justice.

For the great majority of decisions coming out of DOJ now, I think you're right on the money. Indeed, your note reminded me of how I thought DOJ should have operated during the Reagan years: Figure out what Jimmy Carter would have done, then do the opposite.

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