(CN) – The 9th Circuit reinstated criminal campaign-finance charges against prominent Los Angeles attorney Pierce O’Donnell for allegedly making “straw donor” contributions to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.
“Federal campaign finance law says that ‘[n]o person shall make a contribution in the name of another person,'” Judge Raymond Fisher wrote for the three-judge panel. “We hold that this law prohibits a person from providing money to others to donate to a candidate for federal office in their own names, when in reality they are merely ‘straw donors.'”
O’Donnell was indicted on charges of violating campaign finance law by donating $26,000 of his own money to the Edwards campaign through family members and employees of his law firm.
Prosecutors said O’Donnell either promised to reimburse those who donated around $2,000 in their own names or paid them in advance.
U.S. District Judge S. James Otero dismissed the counts, concluding that O’Donnell’s activities did not violate federal law.
The Pasadena-based panel reversed on appeal, ruling that anyone who solicits others to donate in their own names with an agreement to either reimburse or pay them in advance violates campaign-finance laws.
O’Donnell’s lawyers had questioned whether the allegations, brought against him two years ago, were politically motivated because he was an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s civil rights policies in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the Los Angeles Times. O’Donnell has also sued the government on behalf of Hurricane Katrina victims.