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Legal Ethics

Payments to Edwards’ Mistress Raise Campaign Law Issues

Posted Aug 15, 2008 3:59 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Payments made on behalf of former presidential candidate John Edwards to his admitted mistress may not have complied with campaign laws, experts say.

At least one says money paid by Fred Baron, a wealthy Dallas trial attorney who served as Edwards' national finance chairman, to Rielle Hunter could potentially present a legal issue, according to the Associated Press.

The money may not have been reported as campaign expenditures, as was probably required, says attorney Cleta Mitchell, who represents Republican candidates and conservative groups and specializes in campaign finance law. "That would undermine the purpose of the payments, which was to avoid public disclosure of the affair."

Baron has characterized his payments to Hunter as private transactions, according to the article, but did not respond to a request for comment.

Additionally, experts say, it would present a problem if the campaign spent political action committee money for Edwards' personal use. A $14,000 payment to Hunter for her video work on behalf of the presidential campaign, after she had already received a $100,000 payment, could be an issue in this regard: "Legal experts said it was important for Edwards to demonstrate the PAC wasn't paying Hunter merely to keep her quiet about the affair," the news agency writes.

How to characterize such payments is a matter of interpretation, according to professor Richard Hasen of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

An unnamed Edwards associate told the news agency that Hunter was paid the final $14,000 only after she provided about 100 hours worth of what the AP describes as "cutting-room floor videotape excerpts" that had not previously been given to the campaign.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Lawyers for Edwards’ Mistress and Campaign Aide Tied to Fred Baron"

Fox News: "Source Disputes Report That Edwards’ PAC Paid Rielle Hunter $14,000 for Video Footage"

National Enquirer: "Sex, More Lies & Videotape"

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