John Edwards is in a courtroom in North Carolina right now, as the defendant, facing four charges surrounding the misuse and mishandling of campaign funds, as well as one count of conspiracy and another for making false statements. Each charge carries a possible sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The funds in question were those that were made by two very wealthy donors, and the issue is whether those funds were used to pay for the costs of having a mistress and covering up her existence. My question is why any of it matters, and what is accomplished by putting John Edwards in prison.
We all know the sordid details of what this once Presidential hopeful did, not only to his family, to his mistress, and the child that was the result of their relationship, but also to his own reputation. Without a doubt, he ruined everything. He had everything any of us could hope for and he trashed every bit of it. I just don’t see how the federal government, a trial and a prison sentence are going to make this of any better or serve the notion of justice. The case, itself, is shaky at best, as the three main witnesses are a former aide who was granted immunity, an elderly woman, too frail to make it to court, and a mistress, whose own story and motives could be considered questionable.
Most of the donations, and I even wonder if that term applies here, came from Rachel “Bunny” Lowe Lambert Lloyd Mellon, now 102 years old. Bunny’s pedigree is one which very few can match, and her wealth, much of which is tied up in trusts, is probably beyond most of our imaginations. The Lambert family to which she was born, acquired their money from companies like Gillettte, Warner-Lambert, and most recently, Pfizer. The Mellon family into which she married is well known in the banking industry as well as Carnegie Mellon University and the Mellon Institute. Calling these people wealthy would be a gross understatement. Bunny, herself, was close friends with President and Mrs. Kennedy, and that was how she became interested in John Edwards – she saw Camelot all over again in the face of the charming and well-coiffed candidate.
When Edwards first ran for President, in 2004, Bunny called his campaign headquarters to inquire as to how she could help. Some obviously foolish campaign worker failed to recognize the importance of her name and never passed the message along to anyone. That didn’t deter Bunny, and she tried again in 2008, this time successfully, to get through to the right people – the ones who know a gift horse when they see one. The message from Mrs. Mellon was delivered to Edwards, and he, very wisely, jumped at the opportunity to meet the grande dame in person. It was obviously a match made in heaven – she was smitten and he found a ton of cash.
Bunny started off making some relatively small donations of $10,000 to $25,000, and things went rather smoothly for a while. When she heard of the criticism of Edwards’ $400 haircuts, Bunny became outraged and found a new way to take care of her candidate’s financial needs – particularly those that might not have been exactly campaign related. Edwards’ right-hand man, Andrew Young soon found himself in the middle of this arrangement. Checks were delivered, inside boxes of chocolates, made out to Young’s wife, Cheri, and under her maiden name. The Youngs now claim that they found all of this rather disturbing, but soon found a way to assuage their own consciences – they started skimming a little for themselves.
When stories of an Edwards mistress, Rielle Hunter, began circulating, followed shortly by a rumored pregnancy, the Youngs took on a slightly bigger role. They were assigned the task of taking care of Hunter, finding an apartment for her and sometimes having her stay at their own home – a home, paid for, in part, with Bunny’s money. Their loyalty to Edwards, at the time, ran so deep, and the incoming money was so good, that Andrew Young claimed that he was, in fact, the father of Hunter’s unborn child. Then, say the Youngs, they began to question themselves and Edwards as to the morality of this arrangement. I think it was more a matter of their feeling undervalued and little bit used, but the Youngs would have us believe that they are some sort of courageous whistleblowers. Either way, this resulted in Edwards, along with other campaign employees, pulling away from the Youngs – icing them out if you will.
This is when the Youngs decided to tell their version of the truth to the media, which lead to the end of Edwards’ dream of becoming President. John Edwards, from that point forward, earned every bit of what he got. The demise of his political career was nothing, however, compared to what he deservedly received from his family. Elizabeth, his cancer-stricken wife, and their children turned their backs on him. His betrayal was so appalling that most of us couldn’t even put a satisfactory definition to it. The golden boy was beyond tarnished, and none of us wanted anything to do with him again – except his children.
John Edwards has been blessed with a daughter who has seen and been through things which would leave most of us still reeling. Cate Edwards, now 30 years old, and a graduate of Harvard Law, has been the glue holding this very broken family together. She has two younger siblings who she has helped raise since her mother first found out that her second bout of cancer was fatal. She was devoted to her mother, is the maternal figure for her younger sister and brother, and is now standing beside her father in court.
So, somebody tell me what this trial is supposed to achieve. I’m not going to forgive him for all the things he brought about, but that’s not really my place. He didn’t harm me in any way. If you want to say that he destroyed some public trust, well, at least for my generation, that was something that started long ago when Richard Nixon first set his eyes on the Watergate Hotel. I don’t need him sent to prison, not by a long stretch, so the prosecutors don’t need to do this in my name. He is living in a prison he designed, built and lives in, everyday. The people he hurt the most are the same people who need him the most. Sentencing him to a prison term, now matter how brief it may be, will really only punish them, and I don’t see any justice in that at all.
Good God. Bunny Mellon is still alive? Woah. I also didn’t realize it was she who donated the funds in question, nor how they were delivered. Creepy. I wonder if Mrs. Mellon has ever stated an opinion about the whole thing?
I agree with you on your summation of the Youngs. “I think it was more a matter of their feeling undervalued and little bit used, but the Youngs would have us believe that they are some sort of courageous whistleblowers.” Beautiful summation.
I don’t have an opinion on whether he should go to jail; but I feel the Youngs immunity in the face of possible jail time would be the ultimate travesty. I kind of wonder if there were not a family tragedy in the background, would that change an opinion as to the seriousness (or lack thereof) of the charges? I ask in all earnestness, b/c I wonder, if Edwards were simply a local (Florida) politician, etc. who did the same, would our little municipal court system follow through with charges? Again, I ask in all earnestness. I really know absolutely nothing about law, obviously. etc. etc.
My reply begins with a statement Bunny made to Andrew Young early on: “I was sitting alone in a grim mood — furious that the press attacked Senator Edwards on the price of a haircut. But it inspired me — from now on, all haircuts, etc. that are necessary and important for his campaign — please send the bills to me… It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions.”
And this is all she has said, publicly, since the indictment:
“I had a serious operation a little while ago, and ever since then I’ve been very, very weak,” Mellon says. “I’m going along on very weak wheels.”
As for the rest of your question – I have no idea. Prosecutors seem to very inconsistent in their treatment of politicians and violations of the law. Some folks get away with simply paying back money they misappropriated – an option I’m sure we’d all enjoy having – and some are sent directly to jail. Tis a puzzlement.
Aha – I see. So what it really comes down to, perhaps, is the jury’s sense of justice, or vindictiveness, maybe.
Also, thanks for the Mrs. Mellon quote. I can see how she saw him as Kennedy.
Hey… Ted Vick (SC state rep) just announced that he quit ALEC. He says he walked out during a Jindel speech some time ago: http://www.fitsnews.com/2012/04/24/ted-vick-resigns-from-alec/
Given Mrs. Mellon’s own statements and her part in this – she could actually have been charged with conspiracy, too. I guess prosecutors draw the line at centenarians. 🙂
(Thanks for the link re: Vick)
Meet the replacement for ALEC
Donna, If I haven’t already said it, I want to thank you again for another terrific link. BTW, just how many news sources do you follow? 🙂 The articles you send our way are more than welcome and I can’t thank you enough for filling in some pieces to a lot of interesting stories.
Over 100 on Facebook, I have them separated into lists, I don’t pay attention to my news feeds just go to lists.
Empress – Thank you for sharing. Knowing the background of the story is fascinating. I, too, have no opinion on the question of conviction or punishment. Manipulations and mistruths have become such “a normal part” of politics that it is difficult to know the whys. It seems to me that John Edwards has just met up with Karma, shot a losing hand of craps, and he will have to suffer his way through it. Another tragic figure, another man who let his wiener get in the way. That’s all.
“Is there a lesson to be learned from this particular debacle and if there is, are we prepared to learn it?” I think you already know the answer to that. The types of behaviors and actions we’re seeing here have been going on for centuries and we ain’t learned nothin’ yet.
I come from a place of believing all politicians are liars, cheaters, and thieves and as such, belong in prison. They who swear to defend and uphold the law, run around scoffing at it as if they are somehow privileged and above it or it doesn’t apply to Them. The only answer I’m going to give your question however is this. If the strict rule of law is to be applied to One, then it should be applied to All. The thing is though, I don’t think anyone gave a crap about his $400 haircut until the news of his infidelity came out against the backdrop of his dying wife. I don’t believe elections are won anymore but Bought and paid for. Mrs Mellon, IMO, tried to buy one herself, is the way I read your post just like pappa Joe Kennedy, in part, did in 1960.
mth – “If the strict rule of law is to be applied to One, then it should be applied to All.”
If only that were the case. As I mentioned in my reply to V5, nothing is applied equally. The first example that came to mind regarding politicians and the rules involved Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson:
“A longtime Texas congresswoman pledged to return more than $20,000 in donated funds meant for needy students after disclosures that she gave the scholarships to her relatives and those of her staff.”
We could probably fill volumes with those who got a slap on the wrist.
I know it’s a lofty ideal, Empress, and one that will never be achieved. The only reasons these politicians ever do the Right thing, is fear of getting caught or they Do get caught. Even in your own example here, gave it back because she got Caught. Never occurred to her apparently to do the right thing to begin with. “Gee officer, I didn’t think it would be wrong to steal that stereo.. They have so many in the store. Here, Let me put it back and everything will be okay, Okay?”
🙂 – Yep, wouldn’t we all love that opportunity. Nothing wrong with lofty ideals, either – it keeps most of us doing the right thing.
I know if I ever attempt it, I’m going high end audiophile type stuff. I’m not spending time in the can for trying to walk with some import piece of garbage 😉
LOL! Go big or go home!
Exactly. My parents didn’t raise any dummies.
“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”
Interesting piece on Elizabeth Edwards …
All of the adults let the children down.
I’ve read other pieces which talked about Elizabeth’s less than stellar character. I don’t think you can be married to a politician and not have your own ambitions – I think they have a different set of vows than the rest of us.
I like all the comments on narcissism and sociopaths, and agree.
I’ve read a lot on Bunny Mellon and essentially, she’s a person who lives in her garden – I think she created the Rose Garden at the White House, during Kennedy, and it’s remained. She was instrumental in finding donors for Mrs. Kennedy’s White House restoration project for all kinds of furniture/fabrics, etc. etc. She’s from an era where the men stray and the women find their way to happiness through other means. Hers was gardening, lifestyle, and creating an ethereal beauty in the physical world. By all accounts, she’s considered inimitable. That’s not to excuse her outlook – but she is far more than a privileged person out of touch w/ reality. I mean to say – she created a lifestyle to remove herself from harsh reality. Very interesting person.
I don’t think Edward’s haircut looks like 400.00. 200.00, maybe. But not four. I write this w/ an intimate knowledge of expensive men’s haircuts(!) Methinks someone saw an opportunity and charged him for it; or maybe it included traveling fees. A greedy hairdresser and a vain presidential candidate and *presto!* there you have it.
If you’ll bear with me while I go a little off-topic here, during the week of May 14th, the game show “Jeopardy” will be having an interesting lineup of contestants for a “Power Players” tournament. The list of those participating, and playing for charities, includes Anderson Cooper, Kelly O’Donnell, Robert Gibbs, David Faber, Lewis Black, Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd and Chris Wallace, among others. It should be fun to see just how much these folks really know about the varied categories this competition subjects its’ players to.
In case you want to drop by and have tea with Miss Bunny:
Oh my. Miss Bunny owns so much property that it merited TWO installments on realestalker:
Unbelievable – this probably puts the Mellon family in the 1% of the 1%ers. Also looks like there was more than enough room to stash a mistress for a while. 🙂
I know I’m late to this party… I think John Edwards arrogance was his downfall. He was a one term NC senator and spent most of his time campaigning for his first White House run. He simply didn’t do the job he was elected for and turned off many of his constituants that elected him (like me :-). I know people who actually knew Elizabeth (she was their lawyer) and from all accounts she was a lovely woman and was the brains in that family. I think Cate takes after her.
I don’t see who it serves to try John Edwards or incarcerate him. It’s just costing the tax payers money that could be used for much better purposes. I also hate for us to be footing the bill for the Young’s revenge.
Good morning Empress, great blog. I am days behind & am going to the next post. I enjoyed all the comments. I agree with your whole take on the situation. His poor kids. I was aware elizabeth was off putting, to say the least, but man I hated this whole POS saga for her as one woman to another kind of way. Oh, the Mellons make the Rockerfellers/Hurst/Vanderbilts look like welfare recepients. I too was floored she is still alive. Lisa