I have been getting my vicarious thrills lately from following the John Edwards trial. Edwards is the scumbag of all scumbags, and the unfolding creepiness of his sordid behavior is glorious to behold in a can't-take-your-eyes-off-the-car-wreck kind of way. But there's a real issue here, and it hinges on the definition of the word "the" in much the same way Bill Clinton tried to redefine "is":
The statute governing illegal receipt of campaign contributions "means any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money... for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office."
The words "the purpose" suggests that in order for a conviction, the sole reason for the money would have to be to finance a presidential campaign.
Edwards' legal team has argued he did not know it might be illegal, did not intend to break the law and that his main reason for hiding Hunter was to keep her secret from his wife, Elizabeth, who was dying of breast cancer.
Prosecutors, however, are arguing the law should be interpreted to mean "a purpose," meaning use of the donations does not have to be solely for a political campaign.
The more details that come out, the more it seems the prosecution's case is a stretch. It does matter whether the money was intended for campaigning or not. If they actually intended to use the money for a coverup when they were asking for it, especially if the donors were pretty clear about that, it might be reprehensibile but it's likely not criminal. We need to be careful not to hope for a conviction just because someone is a first-class louse.