They Can't Be Serious - Prosecuting Edwards

Michael Collins

We can draw several clear conclusions from the indictment of John Edwards.

The case is a joke, quite literally. It mocks justice.

The cast of characters consists of people who should have recused themselves, rather than bringing a prosecution. This strange case has the faint odor of the nonstop assault on former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman.

Apparently the Department of Justice has a lot of time on its hands. How else could it pursue this transparent nonsense while failing to prosecute the perpetrators of the financial collapse?

Finally, the prosecution shows that those in control are not even pretending to acknowledge a rule of law.

The Indictment has No Basis in Law

Prosecutors redefine and distort the definition of campaign contributions and activities to fit the Edwards case. They ignore the clearly stated language negating their claim. As a result, this prosecution is so flawed it can only be judged as a personal or political prosecution.

The third sentence of the Edwards indictment states: "A centerpiece of Edwards' candidacy was his public image as a devoted family man." Having made that assertion, the US Attorney sprung his trap. The Election Act’s contribution limit applied "to anything of value provided for the purpose of influencing the presidential election…" That’s the entire case. John Edwards took money to cover up a personal problem that would have hurt his campaign. Taking the money isn’t the main problem. Edwards would have been guilty had he used his own money. The alleged crime is using money in excess of the maximum limit for anything that influences the election.

There has never been a campaign finance prosecution using this broad theory. Here’s why. You have candidates who take salaries, cash in investments, undergo plastic surgery, and even receive mortgages and other loans during their candidacy. These acts all contribute to a candidate’s positive image in some way. But, they are not considered campaign expenditures under the campaign finance law used to charge Edwards. The law specifically excludes personal funds in Sections 431, 441 and elsewhere makes clear.

There’s no specific language in the law about paying off a mistress. But that’s clearly personal, an outcome of personal behavior. It’s no different than a candidate using money in excess of the $2,500 contribution limit to polish up his or her image with a loan for an electorate friendly ranch, a new "tuck," or even a vacation. Whether these are paid for with loans from others or with personal funds, these acts are never the cause of legal problems for the elected officials or their challengers.

What is campaign expenditure? Is it "anything of value provided for the purpose of influencing the presidential election"? The US Attorney would have us think so. But he knows better. That is language right out of federal election law. The indictment neglects language in the very same section, 431, Definitions (20), (A) that tells us what constitutes "Federal election activity" in the following subparagraphs: (i) voter registration; (ii) voter identification; (iii) public communication; and, (iv) services.

The specifics in (20) (A) make it perfectly clear what constitutes "election activity." It’s the nuts and bolts of getting the vote out, advertising, and the logistics of moving candidates and people around. There is no basis to expand and distort the definition as the Department of Justice prosecution does. The neglect of obvious clauses in the law that exculpate Edwards or anyone else similarly charged speaks to the transparent weakness of the indictment.

A Stacked Deck at the Department of Justice

Who had the gall to bring this indictment in the first place? It comes from the Department of Justice, via the US Attorney’s office, North Carolina, Eastern District. President George W. Bush appointed the US Attorney behind this effort in 2006, George E.B. Holding. He comes from the same family that owns the holding company that controls Citizens Bank, one of the largest regional banks in the Southeast. The family had strong ties to the late Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC). Holding’s three high profile indictments of politicians were all prominent Democrats.

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) put a hold on the Obama administration’s nominee to replace Holding. Burr got the silent assent of the Democratic Senator from that State, Kay Hagen. Was this delay designed to get Edwards? We may never know. Burr is the fall guy for this awful prosecution, according to Obama administration apologists. In fact, if Obama wanted his own US Attorney, he would have had the appointment. It has been two and a half years since he took office.

Odd cases make strange bed fellows. The case would never have been brought were it not approved by the Department of Justice. The chief of the department’s section on public integrity, Jack Smith, co-signed the complaint. Andrew Kreig, Executive Director of the Justice Integrity Project, chronicled the unraveling of the section’s last big case, the prosecution of the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. The judge who dismissed the case said he’d never seen anything like the "mishandling and misconduct" in that prosecution in 25 years on the Federal bench. "

Lanny A. Breuer, President Obama’s choice to head the criminal division at main justice came to government from one of Washington’s true power firms, Covington and Burling, the same firm that Attorney General Eric Holder left when he became Attorney General. The indictment would not have occurred without their approval. At the law firm, Breuer headed up a division that represented targets of congressional probes: "Moody’s Investor Service in the wake of Enron’s collapse, and Halliburton/KBR in a hearing conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform." The fox now guards the hen house.

Where is the justice and equity in a baseless prosecution by a political enemy of John Edwards, supervised by a public integrity section that shocks judges by its misconduct, all under the banner of a Justice Department where the two senior officials are from a high powered DC law firm specializing in defending big money corporations accused of major crimes?

Where are the critically important financial fraud indictments?

The Great Recession of 2008 laid waste to the assets of the middle and working classes. By 2009, the top 1% of the country had incomes 255 times greater than the bottom four fifths of the population. The top 20% controlled 80% of the nation’s wealth, with 20% for the rest of the country. About 25% of citizens have a negative net worth

The value of home equity went from 13.5 trillion before the Great Recession to 5.3 trillion in the first quarter of 2009, a loss of $8.2 trillion for the most valuable asset most citizens own.

The likely perpetrators of the Great recession are among top 1% of the population. Many sources have documented the unmitigated greed and recklessness of Wall Street and the big banks, greed that precipitated the recession. A comprehensive report by a bipartisan Senate committee documents much of it, in detail, with extensive evidence.

The perpetrators of the 2008 financial crisis and Great recession caused losses 8.2 trillion in home equity values and the DOJ fraud task force recovered only $204 million (see chart). Yet, this same Justice Department has time to initiate a costly, trivial, absurd prosecution of a political figure who will never run for office again.

Talking up the administration’s Financial Fraud Task Force, Lanny A. Breuer, head of the justice criminal division said, "As you know, in the wake of the economic crisis, pursuing financial fraud is one of the Department’s top priorities."

A more familiar figure spoke out in support: "Through the Financial Fraud Task Force, we are making clear that the Obama Administration is going to act aggressively and proactively in a coordinated effort to combat financial fraud," said Treasury Secretary Geithner. November 17, 2009

What are they waiting for? Better yet, we should ask, why are they waiting? And, why is the US Attorney’s office that covers a major banking center, Charlotte, North Carolina, wasting his time prosecuting John Edwards?

We Live in a Lawless Nation

When great crimes go uninvestigated, let alone unpunished, and petty acts are construed to be crimes for political reasons, it is fair to conclude that we life in a lawless nation. That doesn’t mean all participants in the legal system are lawless, far from it. It means that those in the seats of great power use that power to protect the very wealthy no matter what the crimes, at the expense of the rest of us. For them, the law is a tool for control and settling scores.

The Bush administration mounted a systematic assault on what remained of the Constitution’s protections for individuals against unjust prosecution and mistreatment by the system. They provided tools for their successors in the Obama administration to carry on with abuses of power. Unfounded and petty prosecutions like the Edwards’s case and failure to prosecute the perpetrators of the financial collapse are just two examples.

END

(Image: John Edwards 2008)

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Comments

sexting and mistreses vs. CDOs and derivatives

Pretty astounding right? We've had a pattern of "stories", which suck the air out of the news cycle and are a distraction. Seems the only way to really get someone out of office is to catch them with their pants down.

You might also rant about Weiner being investigated by the ethics committee. Seriously? You lose your congressional seat for sexting these days?

Of course they will claim it's about going after someone for lying, but it's not, nope, the minute a public official is exposed as doing anything but the missionary position once a month, mandatory heterosexual and at least engaged....the press explodes.

No committee on creation of a national trade policy or maybe a committee to analyze what really works to get the jobs market moving and what policies are needed, out of Congress, by expert testimony from economists who are actually credible...

no, can't have that. How about hearings televised on CNN about crumbling infrastructure? No, no way. We cannot even get Greece hitting CNN in the U.S.

Nope, but they can debate ad nauseum Sarah Palin or Weiner's Woodie.

Pretty damn ridiculous. Then they'll say it's the cover up, the lie, instead of the act. B.S. we catch these politicians every single day lying their heads off on economic related topics.

Why are they not arrested for casting votes per the direct request of some lobbyist? Now that's a worthwhile prosecution.

We all know Edwards is a sleezeball, no shit, he does that while his wife has terminal cancer, nuf said.

But how about going after some of these campaign contributions from foreign organizations, funneled through domestic ones? I'm thinking of NASSCOM and China...
hello, that was supposedly not legal to buy our Congress from foreign interests...

All they have done is loophole the law, the $$ is coming from outside the U.S.

BTW: Nothing more ironic than to watch Elliot Spitzer doing a straight faced news report on Weiner. Yet another person who did some criminal prosecutions surrounding white collar crime, fraud, finance...

being caught with his pants down and whoosh, out of power.

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Cisco manages to get someone arrested in Canada

Speaking of incredible stories, Naked Capitalism had one showing Cisco Systems managed to get a whistleblower, arrested, yes perp walk, handcuffs, in Canada. Basically locked him up because he brought a civil suit.

In a rare move, [Justice Robert]McKinnon stayed extradition proceedings against Peter Adekeye, a British computer entrepreneur who once worked for Cisco Systems, Inc.

The judge said U.S. prosecutors acted outrageously by having the respected executive bizarrely arrested in Vancouver on May 20, 2010 as he testified before a sitting of the American court he was accused of avoiding.

He called Adekeye’s ordeal something out of a novel by Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22.

The RCMP took Adekeye into custody as he was testifying before a special U.S. hearing at the Wedgewood Hotel about the very case that supposedly required his urgent extradition.

Adekeye was perp-walked through the hotel lobby to a waiting police wagon.

“This speaks volumes for Cisco’s duplicity,” the judge said, adding the company had “the unmitigated gall” to try to use the criminal process to humiliate and force Adekeye to abandon a civil suit.

Adekeye was held in custody for 28 days and forced to remain in Canada until this week under strict bail conditions because of the false and misleading material from the U.S., McKinnon said.

This is one scary story and while Cisco Systems runs ads about how there are no borders, they are one evil corporation.

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Boycott Cisco

Boycott Cisco routers. Money is the only thing they understand. I just wish we could boycott our government too for aiding and abetting the Cisco investigation.

Cisco + Government power = scary

It was Mussolini who said fascism is the combining of corporate and government powers.

This case is a good example of fascism.

The US government prosecutes nobody on Wall St. for our economic collapse, yet when Cisco decides they want to have someone arrested, the US government jumps into action. Just who is running this country?

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Yes, but how?

I agree with your points about the dangers of corporatism ... intermingling of corporate and state power ...

BUT, how do I go about boycotting Cisco routers if I am to use the internet?

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Gender test for positions of power?

How about the Strauss-Kahn case? John Klotsche writes in opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor (June 5, 2011)
 

Christine Lagarde is the right choice to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF, and not just because of her experience. Women are more effective communicators and aren't libido-led leaders, like Anthony Weiner.

What is troublesome in the Strauss-Kahn case, and perhaps in many others, is this: suppose that a person would happen somehow to know just one day in advance that the incident would take place. That person with accounts, leverage (margin or connections) and access to exchanges could likely have parlayed a $100,000 play in Greek government bonds into something like  perhaps $300,000 or more within 48 hours! This is an oversimplified account, and a much more detailed analysis by Forest Cookson is available at

DebateRX.com (May 2011): Deep doings at the IMF

which speaks in these terms:

"... making hundreds of millions of dollars or losing a similar amount.  I can afford a bribe of one million dollars for the maid to make up this story."

Of course, this is 'conspiracy theory', but -- again quoting Mr. Cookson:

"[N]othing is simple and ... all events have at least one underlying conspiracy."

 

IMO, something like the Strauss-Kahn scenario could be done by people who are organized to do such things for surely not more than $100,000. Are there people in this world, in New York City, who do things like this, perhaps even specialize in things like this? Hmmm ... what do you think?

What about the ephemeral news item about some guy (connected into 'Wall Street') who allegedly bragged to a woman (with whom he was allegedly intimately involved outside of any marriage) that he knew the day before the Deepwater Horizon explosion that he was about to make a fortune playing BP short, and was certain enough of his insider information that he was already celebrating his big win at the tables of Casino Financial Capitalism?

For example, back in the Kennedy administration, knowing in advance about a government news release about anti-trust actions in communications cases, allegedly allowed some people to make a fortune overnight playing AT&T short.

I believe that ALL derivatives in paper, that is paper built on paper (as opposed to commodities) -- even such simple derivatives as ordinary futures -- are essentially forms of gambling prone to 'THE FIX'. To some extent, this is true even in the case of commodities, as shown in the notorious De Angelis vegetable oil case (1963), that destroyed the hoary reputation of, and forced reorganization of American Express. Is there gold in Fort Knox?

People worry about paper money - even though money is less paper and more digital these days - but they should IMO worry more about all the other forms of paper (digital) commodities. Trading in paper is inherently risky and always subject to 'THE FIX'. That's why there are great profits to be made! That's why it can't happen without considerable governmental regulation. That's why it's imperative to aggressively pursue corruption in high places (and low) and not get side-tracked into People-Magazine-type stuff about politicos (not that politicos should be above the law but we should observe the law, including the part about innocent until proven guilty and the part about not speculating on a pending case).

I don't know anything about the facts of the Strauss-Kahn case, although I have formed an impression that, as it stands now, it's she-said-he-did. So, it's a pending case and should not be discussed. I only discuss it here as an example of how confused matters can become in a corrupted world system of finance-capitalism and how problematic it therefore is to accept numbers (averages over time) as the basis for economic decisions.

Rampant huge speculation in currency markets may constitute just the tip of the iceberg. No wonder people like to have actual gold, silver and platinum buried in a safe buried under the basement!

Requirements for a healthy free economy: (1) effective aggressive regulatory activities by stable government trusted by the people; and, (2) transparency in and systematic controls over possible corruption undermining the activities and the government.

 

Really, what's essential is integrity and trust - not the same as the appearance of integrity or as blind trust in government.
 

Commerce is impossible without an environment of mutual trust.

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Ugh! I'm Weinered out! Rape is about power, not sex!

I am so much trying to avoid Weinergate and it's just saturating the news. I just do not care about some sexting, sexual predatory asshat.

Folks, I have no idea where this gender test is coming from. These behaviors have much more to do with power, which goes along with sociopathic behaviors of CEOs, politicians and such, than actual sex.

Women can get off on power just as much as a male can. You just haven't seen it because women are denied power.

Strauss-Kahn is charged with attempted rape. This is a violent crime and all about power. Think about it. He could have ordered up any kind of strange and have it delivered to his hotel door in 5 minutes in NYC. They specialize in strange of all kinds, 24/7, free delivery.

Nope, that was about power. Same with Weiner at this point, or some sort of self-destruct weirdness button or whatever..

but our site is an economics site, please, let's stick to the topics at hand..

Let's focus in on policies. I just don't give a rats ass about anyone photographing their woodie beyond criminal charges for flashing or whatever.

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Pardon my choice of a title!

I don't seem to be able to redact my comment at this point, and I don't want to withdraw the main thrust of it - which wasn't about gender politics or sexual behavior!

PLEASE ALLOW ME TO CHANGE THE TITLE TO "Economic as well as political consequences: Strauss-Kahn", DELETE INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH, AND, THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR QUOTE.

(Or, delete my entire comment, and I'll post it in redacted form.)

Actually, although I have seen the name Weiner lately in the ubiquitous media background, it hasn't interested me enough to look into it. I don't watch TV news and I have no idea who Anthony Weiner is or the nature of allegations against him. THAT'S how little I care about that lumpen junk!

I quoted John Klotsche to introduce - NOT the Strauss-Kahn case but - ECONOMIC and POLICY issues arising from consideration of Strauss-Kahn, how the media may be manipulated to create profiteering opportunities in trading, and, issues related to destabilizing effects of such profiteering.

Primarily, I am discussing the consequences of the blend of prurient interest and celebrity cultism of the public, sensationalism and distractionism of mainstream media, and, opportunities that those create for profiteering manipulation of markets in paper of all kinds. These have consequences for consideration of policy issues and also for investment decisions of individuals.

No one has commented on the primary subject matter of my comment, so I guess I should not have used the quote that I did. I used that quote because it seemed to tie my thoughts into the related discussion of the John Edwards case. (Both about politico-economic consequences associated with phenomena cited.)

My intent was to draw discussion toward topics of economic policy.

Of course, rape is about psychopathology relating to power relationships and should not be confused with healthy sexual activity.

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edit link on comment form, don't you have that?

There should be an edit comment link next to the reply link on the comment form. You don't see that?

If not, let me know which means something is wrong with the site permissions, for you should see that.

I find it disgusting generally that the only thing that gets creeps out of office is if they get caught with their pants down.

Damn, one would think being bought by Goldman Sachs would be way way worse, but nope....

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Edit link?

There is an Edit link when I first post, and that Edit link remains BUT ONLY UNTIL SOMEONE POSTS A REPLY TO MY POST.

For example, I can still edit my reply titled "Yes, but how?", and I will be able to edit this reply titled "Edit link?" but only UNTIL SOMEONE POSTS A REPLY UNDER THIS.

I don't know about permissions, but the system as it works for me makes sense in that it's kinda unfair if I post a reply and then my reply makes no sense after the comment has been redacted.

I thought probably you could click a button and maybe open my post up to edit or, more likely, vanish it. Then I could repost my redaction wherever it would end up - which still would be a little confusing in that people would not have context for your remark (paraphrased) "Folks, I do not know where this 'gender test' is coming from." (Context was my quote from the Christian Science Monitor opinion page that suggests, not a statutory gender test, but a gender test that voters may apply as a result of this brouhaha of media misdirection and actual or alleged sexual indiscretions ... or worse.)

Michael Collins has made valid points about political campaign law, drawing important distinctions that are ignored by mainstream media and probably not understood by most EP followers. Also, EP does from time to time touch on campaign finance reform as essential to necessary reform of economic policies ... but I don't think that EP is going to descend to the level of gossip or 'liberal versus 'conservative' sound-and-fury-signifying-nothing or the other media crapola that we are all happy to avoid but cannot completely ignore.

BTW: Banning of trolls is appreciated! Also appreciated is that I have not been banned for some unfortunate approaches I have taken in my comments.

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thanks, I'll look into it

and try to find what is causing that edit to disappear in replies. You are not a troll, not even close. Don't worry.

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Independence of U.S. Attorneys

Analysis by Michael Collins under the heading "A Stacked Deck at the Department of Justice" is generally excellent. However, I am not convinced that "[i]n fact, if Obama wanted his own US Attorney, he would have had the appointment" (Micheal Collins). Maybe not -- certainly there would have been a price to pay. The peculiar institution of the Senate has been extremely challenging for Obama's nominees. It's even become difficult to get people who are willing to undergo the pressure and canned heat of the confirmation process. Who knows what goes on behind the scenes?

I would not put much weight on co-signing of the complaint by Jack Smith -- anything else would have been politically touchy. The fact that not only Breuer but also Holder were formerly at a firm that defended targets of congressional probes is of little moment. It's a revolving door system - prosecutors become defense attorneys and 'criminal attorneys' (don't you love that term?) become prosecutors. It's the adversarial system. They are all members of the same club, and the club is notorious for internecine warfare -- paradoxically, that's how they make their fortunes!

(When you are dragged into court, here's what it's like: you approach the battlefield and find guys with signs advertising their professional warrior credentials. They are all kinda chummy with each other, constantly trading information or misinformation. So, you hire one of them. Then, as you notice all the bodies out there on the battlefield where mines have exploded, your professional warrior politely bows and says, "Do what I say but don't worry, I'll be behind you all the way.")

Each U.S. Attorney is independent of the Attorney General. Each one of the 94 is chief of a fiefdom. Beyond that, each investigation once begun has its own independence. It's feudalistic - under the counts and dukes, there are the barons. Each of them is a little monarch. They are treated with almost as much deference as are judges or other demigods.

Finally, it seems likely that the case against Edwards was begun (the groundwork) before Obama could have possibly appointed a replacement for Holding. Replacing Holding would not have meant that it would have been possible to stop prosecution against Edwards from proceeding. Most likely, Obama and Holder doubted that the prosecution team could get an indictment. Grand juries are not necessarily pushovers for the government ... and all juries are unpredictable.

Also, as one more consideration, it's likely that more than one person thought about Edwards, who was once famous or even notorious as a courtroom guy, that he could take care of himself in these matters. Attorneys who have never worked up front before a jury do not necessarily like attorneys who have been notably successful in arguing cases before juries. We're talking two very different breeds of cats here.

BTW: I have known of situations where one spouse has a terminal condition and is supportive of the other in seeking out some kind of relationship with someone else. Happens all the time. I am not sure that I want to make a moral judgment of John Edwards (or anyone else).

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