Photograph by Steve Exum/Getty Images.
The former presidential hopeful who saw his personal and professional life fall apart over the last few years will go to trial Monday to defend himself against charges that he used illegal campaign contributions to hide an affair. The prosecution claims Edwards used almost $1 million in illegal donations to hide not only an affair with Rielle Hunter but also the child they had together, reports Reuters.
Edwards’ lawyers contend he didn’t know about the donations, and regardless, the money was a personal gift from friends who wanted to protect his family and had nothing to do with the campaign, notes the New York Times. The defense will make an effort to portray the case as politically motivated. If convicted, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
The defense is expected to try to call two former Federal Election Commission members who will testify Edwards likelydidn’t break any campaign finance laws. But it might be more difficult to convince a jury of that than the FEC. Campaign finance expert Stephen Weissman recently called the trial an “extraordinary moment” in a Los Angeles Times op-ed because a question over campaign finance will be decided outside a tight Washington circle that usually has no qualms about loosening restrictions. “Applying common sense to the facts of the case, [the jury] may conclude instead that a major purpose of the Hunter payments was to assist Edwards' candidacy and that Edwards knew he was breaking the law,” notes Weissman.