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.