John Edwards Was the Last Presidential Candidate Charged for Campaign Finance Violations
- John Edwards was charged with campaign finance violations in 2011 related to his 2008 presidential run.
- He was accused by the DOJ of funneling nearly $1 million in donations to his pregnant mistress.
- Edwards was acquitted of one campaign finance violation charge — the others were dropped.
As an indictment looms against former President Donald Trump for an alleged hush-money payment made to Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their affair, legal experts are speculating what the outcome will be if Trump is charged in relation to the campaign finance violation.
The last time a presidential candidate was criminally charged for alleged campaign finance violations, John Edwards faced up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Edwards was John Kerry’s vice presidential running mate in 2004 in the pair’s losing race against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney prior to launching his own presidential campaign in 2008.
The felony charges the former North Carolina Senator faced in 2011 — one count of conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance laws and lie to the Federal Election Commission, four counts of accepting and receiving illegal campaign contributions, and one count of concealing those illegal donations from the FEC — stemmed from his own 2008 campaign. Each carried a maximum five-year term in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“Mr. Edwards is alleged to have accepted more than $900,000 in an effort to conceal from the public facts that he believed would harm his candidacy,” Assistant Attorney General Breuer said in a Department of Justice statement regarding the indictment.
A yearlong investigation and trial revealed that the facts Edwards was accused of conspiring with his campaign staff to cover up were that he had in 2007 his wife was battling breast cancer.
Edwards later admitted to the affair, that he was the father of the girl, and was financially supporting the pair. His wife, Elizabeth, filed for separation after Edwards admitted the child was his, but died of her illness before the criminal charges were brought.
In the case against him, DOJ officials argued Edwards orchestrated a series of illegal donations to provide hush-money payments to his mistress, then conspired with his staff to lie about the affair and cover up the illegal donations with check memos like “chairs,” “antique table,” and “bookcase.”
Legal experts regarded the case as shaky because the charges were not based on a specific federal statute, but an advisory opinion written by the FEC that argued gifts made to political candidates should be considered campaign contributions, CNN and The Washington Post reported at the time.
After nine days of deliberations, a jury acquitted Edwards of one charge of accepting an illegal donation, ABC News reported, but was hopelessly deadlocked on the other five counts, resulting in a mistrial. The Department of Justice chose not to re-try Edwards, Politico reported.
“It’s not illegal to be a pig,” said Brett Kappel, a Washington campaign finance expert told The Washington Post at the time the charges were brought. “Is what Edwards did slimy? Absolutely. Everyone will agree it was reprehensible. But it’s not a crime.”
Edwards did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment sent to his law firm.
Former President Donald Trump said Saturday he expects to be arrested next week related to an ongoing investigation by the Manhattan district attorney in connection to a $130,000 alleged hush-money payment made to the adult-film actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.
Although Trump said he expects to be arrested, his lawyers say that is speculation, and it remains unclear what action the DA’s office will take or when.