I've never been a big John Edwards supporter, but this news from the DOJ highlights the flaws in our campaign finance system more than it does the flaws in John Edwards' character.
NBC News has learned, from sources close to the investigation, that the Justice Department has given the green light for criminal charges to be filed against former U.S. senator John Edwards for alleged campaign finance law violations arising from the cover-up of an extra-marital affair.
One source with knowledge of the case says that while prosecutors are moving toward an indictment, it is still possible that a plea agreement could be reached.
However, NBC News has been told that prosecutors are insisting that Edwards plead to a felony, which friends doubt he will do.
Here's the problem with this, as I see it. Yes, Edwards was wrong to have an affair and (allegedly) spend campaign funds to cover it up by putting Rielle Hunter on the payroll and hide her from journalists. That is certainly wrong, no question.
But what about the donors? This is the major flaw in our campaign finance system. Wealthy donors remain completely protected, even when they are giving funds with full knowledge that they will be used in ways that are against campaign finance laws.
Federal authorities have been investigating whether Edwards illegally spent 2008 campaign money to hide his relationship with videographer Rielle Hunter, and whether some $1 million, provided by wealthy donors to keep her hidden, amounts to illegal contributions.
In Edwards' case, it would embarrass those donors directly connected with the Rielle Hunter coverup. But what about secret donors to other campaign committees who are able to fly under the radar while financing efforts to undermine Medicare, or defeat candidates by inventing lies and scandal about them, or to use their leverage to smear good and decent people like Elizabeth Warren? Those donors go uninvestigated and unscathed.
The Edwards news will play as a big media scandal for as long as the news cycle permits. John Edwards will likely cut a deal of some sort and move on with his life. Life will go on, and big donors will continue to pull the strings of campaigns on both sides of the aisle in ways that impact our lives in far bigger ways than the coverup of an affair ever will.
The evil isn't Edwards' affair or the coverup. The evil is the gushing river of money flowing through our political landscape, flooding and destroying along the way.