John Edwards was indicted today on charges that he used almost $1 million in campaign funds to hide his mistress and their child during his 2008 presidential campaign.
The best way to understand Edwards' alleged crimes is to combine the cases of Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Ensign. The former fathered a child during an affair with an employee, hid it from the public, and supported the child financially, but has not been charged with breaking any laws; the latter had an affair, sans love child, but illegally paid significant amounts of hush money to keep his mistress quiet. Put these together and you get a pretty accurate picture of Edwards' misconduct.
Edwards contends that the money was not campaign money so he didn't break any campaign finance laws. There may well be a trial. Edwards's sexual misconduct has been well-documented by the media, and it's a terrible kind of betrayal to destroy your family over an affair. It's another kind of betrayal to not be the good, humble person you marketed yourself as to the public. But politicians who take citizens' hard-earned campaign contributions and turn them into hush money is a betrayal on a different plane. If there's any consolation in these sorts of affairs, it's that campaign money will so soon be dominated by billionaires, third-party groups, and corporations that everyday citizens won't be betrayed when campaign money gets spent in illegal ways.