John Edwards may face $2.3 million FEC fine

Holly Bailey
July 20, 2011

John Edwards may be facing more legal fallout, as the Federal Election Commission considers fining the former Democratic presidential hopeful's 2008 campaign millions for accepting federal matching funds the agency says it wasn't entitled to.

A FEC audit of Edwards' 2008 bid says the former Democratic hopeful's campaign misstated its financial activity in the final months of his ill-fated bid and received more than $2.1 million in primary matching funds it shouldn't have. On Thursday, the FEC is set to take up a recommendation that would fine the Edwards campaign roughly $2.3 million, which also includes penalties for other financial infractions.

In a response included in the audit, Edwards' lawyers argue the campaign was entitled to the extra matching funds, citing payroll expenses that were paid after Edwards was ineligible as a candidate but that covered the final weeks of his campaign. His legal team also argues that it took longer to wind down the campaign than expected, which also took extra cash.

Edwards was indicted in June on felony charges he illegally used campaign contributions to hide an affair with a former aide to his 2008 bid. The case centers around more than $925,000 Edwards received from two longtime political benefactors to conceal his relationship with Rielle Hunter, a former campaign videographer who later gave birth to his child. Prosecutors say that cash should be considered campaign contributions because the money went to protect his image at the height of his 2008 bid.

The question of whether Edwards raised excess campaign contributions is not addressed in the FEC audit. But Edwards attorneys did cite the Justice Department investigation, arguing that its legal fees in dealing with the probe should count as "qualified campaign expenses." According to FEC records, the Edwards campaign has spent more than $2 million on legal fees over the last three years.

If approved, the $2.3 million fine would largely deplete the campaign's bank account. Per its latest FEC report, the campaign reported just over $2.6 million in the bank as of June 30th.