The John Edwards campaign finance indictment: Should my almost-neighbor go to jail?

From ABC News

Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a multimillionaire benefactor of John Edwards, slipped him hundreds of thousands of dollars without the Federal Election Commission being the wiser.

The alleged goal was to spare not just Edwards but also his presidential campaign from the public-relations Chernobyl that would result if the world learned of his secret mistress and her pregnancy.  It did.

Another person also helped pay for the unsuccessful cover-up. And now a federal indictment accuses Edwards of violations of campaign finance law.

Let’s not instantly pronounce Edwards guilty, however. Beyond the other Constitutional and journalistic issues involved, we don’t know everything that a trial could bring out.  Some experts already believe that the case against him is much weaker than the prosecutors claim.

imageThe six-degrees-of-separation factor and some fascinating but meaningless coincidences: I’ve never met Edwards or his late wife, but Elizabeth inherited a modest condo apartment from her family, within 40 feet of where I’m writing this. She and John kept the apartment as a place to stay while in D.C., so in that sense they were my almost-neighbors. He’s still owner.  In a second coincidence, Bunny Mellon and her late husband, Paul, were friends of the late Robert H. Smith, whose father, Charles E. Smith, helped inspire Sy Solomon (the tax-enriched real estate tycoon in The Solomon Scandals with, yes, fewer than six degrees of separation from President Eddy Bullard).

Update: Learn more about Bunny Mellon in an in-depth New York Times profile. Also see a Washington Post article, which might be a little unfair to Edwards and his daughter Cate. For all we know, on her own, as the Post acknowledges, she may have wanted to stand beside him in this difficult moment. Different families have their own ways of coping.

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David Rothman

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