What is sauce for the goose should always be sauce for the gander. That is what we strive for in the law, an even application of investigation and prosecution for all those accused of a crime. Today former Sen. John Edwards is likely going to be indicted on charges that he did not report the hundreds of thousands of dollars that two donors paid to keep an affair quite during the last presidential nominating contest.
As you probably remember Sen. Edwards had an affair and a child with Rielle Hunter, who was a film maker working with the campaign. As with all of these scandals it is not the affair that has tripped up Edwards (we can shake a finger about the affair when you have a dying wife, but until you live in someone else’s life it is impossible to really understand their choices, especially about sex).
By trying to keep the whole thing quite Edwards has gotten himself in a position where it looks as though he has seriously violated campaign finance laws. The crux of the issue is; was the money that the two friends gave to fund the cover up something that was furthering his presidential bid?
If it is, then it is a campaign donation and must be reported. Of course that kind of ruins the whole cover up, after all you can’t put a expense down as “hiding pregnant mistress from dying wife” and expect no one to notice.
The Edwards defense is going to be that this money was not intended to help him become president but rather spare his dying wife the trauma and embarrassment of having it revealed that her husband had and affair and a child with another woman. If that is found to be the case then there is no crime here.
I don’t know how you can possibly separate the two, though. If Edwards were not running for president it is almost certain that his friends would not have given him all that money to help cover up the affair. That is probably what is going to sink him in the end.
To complicate things, if he pleads guilty to this, he has a strong chance of losing his license to practice law in North Carolina. There is an automatic disciplinary hearing in the State Bar whenever an attorney pleads guilty or no contest to a criminal charge in that state.
We will see where this all goes. But there is a bigger point to be made. If this is the standard that the DOJ is going to follow for this kind of thing, we should be expecting them to go aggressively after disgraced Sen. John Ensign.
The story there is basically the same. An affair that was going to be politically damaging, people other than the Senator paying off those involved for their silence. That is before we even get to the obvious and egregious violations of the one year ban on lobbying activities that Ensign is accused of orchestrating.
The fact that the DOJ just let this kind of thing go with a cursory investigation and then told Ensign that he was off the hook while aggressively pursuing John Edwards shows that there is some unacceptable leeway granted to sitting politicians. If anything, it should be the ones in office currently who are investigated as closely as possible. They are the ones that continue to have an impact on the governance of our nation. Whereas people like John Edwards are pretty much done in political terms.
Is there a double standard for Republicans? It sure seems that way, but we don’t know all the details of the Ensign investigation. It is possible the after all that Sen. Tom Coburn was negotiating for immunity in return for his testimony to the Ethics Committee and that meant the DOJ had to back off. However now that there is a clear accusation of criminal wrongdoing it is to be devotedly hoped that the DOJ will be as forward leaning with this investigation as they have been with Mr. Edwards.
Personally I don’t care who politicians have sex with (the usual caveat that it has to be consensual and of legal age) who knows what kind of relationship they have negotiated with their spouse? And frankly it is not our business if they are not saying one thing and doing another. However, if they are going to have extra-marital affairs they must be ready for them to be discovered and must not try to cover them up using large sums of money.
There is an inherent tendency of the powerful to think that not all the rules apply to them. It is completely understandable, but that is why it is so critical that we enforce our laws regarding those with political power strictly. It is one of the only bulwarks against corruption that we have, making sure that the magnitude of regret is so high that it deters the behavior.
I have always liked John Edwards’ politics. He seems to have a genuine concern for the poor and that is a focus that we really need in this nation. However I have no patience for those who break the law, even if the intentions were to spare his wife. If he really wanted to spare his wife, he should have kept his pants zipped up and on. It seems like he broke the law here and just like John Ensign if that is the case he needs to pay the price for this infraction, just like a guy who holds up a liquor store needs to face the law.
It remains to be seen where these two cases go, but I will not shed a single tear if both of these former Senators are convicted for this kind of behavior.
The floor is yours.