WASHINGTON – A federal criminal investigation targeting John Edwards is examining how much the two-time presidential candidate knew about money used to cover up his extramarital affair and out-of-wedlock child and whether other practices of his violated campaign finance laws, people involved in the case have told the Associated Press.
A federal grand jury in Raleigh, N.C., is sifting records and testimony involving several political organizations and individuals connected to Edwards to determine if the former North Carolina senator and 2004 vice presidential nominee broke any laws. A recently issued subpoena focuses on a web of these Edwards-affiliated groups, according to subpoena details provided to the AP that offer a glimpse behind the closed doors of the investigation.
The case largely stems from money spent to keep Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter, in hiding along with former campaign aide Andrew Young, who initially claimed paternity so Edwards could continue pursuing the White House without the taint of the affair.
Investigators are looking chiefly at whether funds paid to Hunter and Young – from outside political groups and Edwards’ political donors – should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid, according to several people involved in the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe. They’re also looking closely at whether any entities linked to Edwards operated illegally.
While it could not be learned if prosecutors have found violations of a specific statute, federal election laws require disclosure of the money spent on campaigns for federal offices, limit the amounts of such donations and prohibit the conversion of campaign funds to personal use.
Edwards’ attorney Wade Smith would not discuss specifics but said, “We do not believe there is evidence that John has violated any election laws.”
The investigation has been led for nearly two years by George Holding, the U.S. attorney in Raleigh appointed by President George W. Bush, with help from FBI and IRS agents and Justice Department attorneys from Washington. North Carolina’s senators have asked President Barack Obama not to replace Holding until he finishes this probe.
Several people interviewed by investigators said the questions focused on Edwards’ knowledge of campaign finance law, going as far back as whether he used his Senate office to conduct political business in violation of congressional rules. Subpoenas issued in the case request e-mails, records and other material related to more than two dozen individuals and organizations connected to Edwards and his allies throughout his political career.