Ethics Watchdog Seeks Dismissal of Indictment Against John Edwards

A government watchdog group known for aggressively advocating prosecution against unethical lawmakers is seeking dismissal of a criminal case against former presidential candidate John Edwards.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, requested Wednesday to file a friend-of-the-court brief in support of dismissing an indictment against Edwards for alleged violations of campaign finance law.

"In the U.S., we don't prosecute people for being loathsome, we prosecute them for violating the law," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said. "This case suggests some in the Department of Justice may have lost sight of this principle."

This is the first time that CREW has supported dismissal of a case against a politician.

In June, a federal grand jury indicted Edwards on six counts: conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count if convicted.

The indictment claims that the payments Edwards' mistress, campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, received from his two friends, Rachel Mellon and Fred Baron, were campaign contributions intended to keep her and their baby in hiding during the 2008 presidential election.

But the Edwards' camp argues the payments were not campaign contributions as defined by campaign finance laws. Sloan agrees with Edwards.

"Here, the government argues Ms. Mellon and Mr. Baron paid Ms. Hunter's expenses to allow Sen. Edwards to maintain his image as a 'family man' by hiding his affair from the American public," she said. 

"So under this theory, paying the expenses of the mistress of a known philanderer wouldn't be a campaign contribution, while covering such costs for the girlfriend of someone who presents himself as a loyal husband is. That can't be right."