(Updates with advocacy group comment in fourth paragraph.)
Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- John Edwards’s indictment should be dismissed, advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said, seeking to file court papers in support of Edwards.
The U.S. Department of Justice is “improperly and unconstitutionally” applying federal election laws to seek a criminal conviction of Edwards, the group said in a proposed brief to be filed in federal court in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The group, known as CREW, cited the unique nature of the case as the reason for its departure from generally supporting the Justice Department against politicians charged with corruption, according to an e-mailed statement.
“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 in the statement. “This case suggests some in the Department of Justice may have lost sight of this principle.”
Edwards, the former U.S. presidential candidate, is accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions to hide an extramarital affair. Lawyers for the former North Carolina senator filed papers earlier this month seeking to dismiss the charges, saying prosecutors abused their authority and that the indictment failed to state an actual crime.
Federal law prohibits the use of campaign funds for personal use such as rent and vacations, the group said in its statement. In contrast, the disputed payments were made on behalf of Edwards because of his pre-existing friendships with multi-millionaire heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and Dallas- based trial lawyer Fred Baron, the group said in its proposed filing. Payments to a candidate that would have been made regardless of the candidacy aren’t subject to federal election campaign laws, the group said.
Filing of the group’s papers in support of Edwards is subject to court approval.
The case is U.S. v. Edwards, 11-00161, U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina (Greensboro).
--Editors: Stephen Farr, Mary Romano
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