It looks like former Presidential candidate John Edwards is about to get indicted. Edwards is an awful person who embodies the characteristics that most of us despise. His hypocrisy and hubris together with his unbelievably boorish behavior while his wife was dying of cancer are the stuff of Greek tragedy.
However, Edwards' downfall is also a great example of how the US has so criminalized the political process that the Government can indict anyone who falls out of favor. Once it was clear that Edwards no longer enjoyed any personal political authority, prosecutors combed through his entire political history and found this charge:
Much of the investigation, however, focused on money that eventually went to keep mistress Rielle Hunter in hiding along with former campaign aide Andrew Young, who claimed paternity of Hunter's child in 2007 so that Edwards could continue his White House campaign without the affair tarnishing his reputation. Investigators have been looking at whether those funds should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid.
Really? Someone gave Edwards a bunch of money so that he could hide his mistress...and those funds "arguably aided" his presidential bid? That means that every dime that any candidate has ever received could later be classified as a political contribution because it "arguably aided" his candidacy.
How many millions has Edwards spent defending himself from this charge? How much time is he going to spend in jail? How many other candidates--or contributors--can be indicted for falling out of favor?
You may think I'm overreacting, but look at the local Fiesta Bowl investigation. The political leaders who accepted donations and took trips have fallen out of favor because the Fiesta Bowl --once an pillar of Arizona's political elite community--has tainted its reputation.
The Fiesta Bowl's new management and the media are looking to shift the blame for the malfeasance of the Fiesta Bowl to the actual victims of that malfeasance...the politicians who were lured into dealings with the Bowl. Actually, I should be more specific, the management is shifting the blame to the politcians and the media are focusing that blame on the Republicans*.
Could the candidates who received the tainted contributions have known that Fiesta Bowl management had criminally laundered Fiesta Bowl funds? Fiesta Bowl officials also invited candidates to football games and claimed that the activity was legal because management had complied with the requirement that all of the members of a single committee were invited. Could the elected officials have known that Fiesta Bowl Management didn't follow up on this requirement?
The answers to these questions are of course "no." The candidates and elected officials could not have known that the Fiesta Bowl was violating the law. Frankly, in the wake of the Citizens United case, it's not entirely clear that contributions by the Fiesta Bowl itself are illegal. The finance and gift laws are so vague and selectively enforced that it's hard to know which ones were broken and when.
And that's the point. The laws that govern politicians are so vague, convoluted and arbitrary that anyone who falls out of favor can be indicted--or at least smeared.
Meanwhile, the candidates and elected official who were victimized by the Fiesta Bowl management don't deserve to be mocked and vilified in the media.
*Footnote: Remember the stories about Congressman Ed Pastor calling the Fiesta Bowl in order to get Super Bowl tickets for his Congressional buddies? Me neither. How about Ben Aredondo getting all those tickets? Paula Aboud? Linda Lopez? Robert Meza. Nope.
Russell Pearce? Yep, that rings a bell. Pearce appears to actualy be even less culpable than the other elected officialls. He paid for most of his tickets; some of the trips attributed to him were actually taken by others and on at least one occasion he attended an event as part of an official function. Yet, the media have not only focused on Pearce, but they have also mocked his attempts to provide a legal defense for each trip.
Sot they are targeted by prosecutors and mocked by the media for "violations" of laws that are too vague to be followed...just like what you find in China or Zimbabwe.