The Adventures of Johnny

     So what exactly is a political campaign?
     Good question, but let’s put it aside for a moment. First off – unlike most of the news media – I don’t want to bury the lead.
     Former U. S. Senator John Edwards – aka Johnny Reid Edwards – got $725,000 from a 100-year-old widow named Bunny!
     What the heck was going on there?
     I’ve been covering lawsuits for a long time and I know that elderly rich people and unrelated young people ending up with their money means trouble. The rich person’s relatives are disgruntled and eyebrows are firmly raised.
     Think Anna Nicole Smith and Erin Fleming. (OK, I know the second one is a bit obscure, but you’ll enjoy looking it up.)
     So was Johnny Bunny’s boy toy?
     Probably not, but this is the sort of thing we want to speculate about.
     (By the way, here’s another glaring media omission. Why isn’t anyone reporting that John Edwards is really named Johnny? The public needs to know this stuff. We want to be able to call him Johnny Boy.)
     Why does an old lady – a really old lady – give a Johnny three quarters of a million dollars to hide his mistress and child? Was there other hanky panky going on?
     Now let your imagination run wild.
     OK, back to the legal question. The central issue in Edwards’ indictment last week for failing to report political campaign contributions is whether or not the widow and one other person were contributing to a political campaign.
     In other words, is hiding a mistress an election expense?
     Normally, when you think of giving money to a candidate, you expect it to be used to buy ads and pay for travel to get exposure. It’s all aimed at revealing stuff – vague, ambiguous stands on issues and distortions about the opposition.
     You don’t normally make a gift to a candidate to keep secrets.
     But the Edwards indictment says the contributions were meant to “protect and advance Edwards’ candidacy for President of the United States” by concealing his extramarital affair with “Person B” and her pregnancy with his child.
     Edwards’ defense seems to be that the contributions weren’t part of the campaign. They were contributions to help him conceal his extramarital affair and child from his wife.
     Now think of it this way: if mistress-hiding is a campaign expense, could the senator have legally used regular campaign contributions or federal funds to pay for it? Or would someone have indicted him for that?
     It’s either a campaign expense or it’s not.
     The court opinions on this are going to be fascinating.
     In the meantime, keep your eye out for elder abuse litigation.
     LEGAL SPOOFING. I got an email from a name partner in local law firm last week that included an item from the Courthouse News L. A. Superior Court complaint list and this statement: “My firm did not file the below listed action. Can you confirm it is just an error? Thanks.”
     So I checked the filing and it had the lawyer’s firm name on it and was signed by a different name partner.
     I figured one partner hadn’t mentioned the lawsuit to the other partner and this was no big deal. I wrote back, in my usual snide fashion: “Interesting. Do you think someone is impersonating your firm?”
     Usually, when someone points out what they think is a mistake but isn’t really and I point this out, I get a sort of vague “I’ll look into it” response because no one wants to admit being wrong. That’s what I expected here.
     Instead, the next note said: “Thanks Milt, yes I do. That is not our pleading. Do you have the entire complaint? I guess I will need to go in ex parte.”
     After I sent the complaint, the lawyer told me his partner was on a cruise on the Adriatic and the signature on the document was not his.
     Maybe it’s just me, but this sure sounds like a great first chapter for a murder mystery.

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