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US criminal probe scrutinizes Edwards’s tryst expenses

John Edwards covered up his extramarital affair. John Edwards covered up his extramarital affair.
Associated Press / January 18, 2011

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WASHINGTON — A federal criminal investigation targeting John Edwards is examining how much the two-time presidential candidate knew about money used to cover up his extramarital affair and out-of-wedlock child and whether he violated campaign finance laws, people involved in the case say.

A federal grand jury in Raleigh, N.C., is sifting records and testimony involving several political organizations and individuals connected to Edwards to determine whether the former North Carolina senator and 2004 vice presidential nominee broke any laws. A recently issued subpoena focuses on a web of these Edwards-affiliated groups, according to subpoena details provided to the Associated Press that offer a glimpse behind the closed doors of the investigation.

The case largely stems from money spent to keep Edwards’s mistress, Rielle Hunter, in hiding along with former campaign aide Andrew Young, who initially claimed paternity so Edwards could continue pursuing the White House without the taint of the affair.

Investigators are looking chiefly at whether funds paid to Hunter and Young — from outside political groups and Edwards’s political donors — should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid, according to several people involved in the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing probe. They are also looking closely at whether any entities linked to Edwards operated illegally.

While it could not be learned if prosecutors have found violations of a specific statute, federal election laws require disclosure of the money spent on campaigns for federal offices, limit the amounts of such donations, and prohibit the conversion of campaign funds to personal use.

Edwards’s attorney Wade Smith would not discuss specifics but said, “we do not believe there is evidence that John has violated any election laws.’’

Reagan veteran launches push for Pence presidency
WASHINGTON — An independent campaign to persuade GOP Representative Mike Pence to run for president in 2012 is underway, with a veteran of the Reagan White House launching a petition drive yesterday urging him to enter the primary contests.

Ralph Benko, a deputy counsel to Ronald Reagan, announced the America’s President Committee to encourage a Pence-for-president bid. Former representative Jim Ryun of Kansas is also helping the campaign to collect signatures from Tea Party movement conservatives and activists.

“Mike Pence extraordinarily exemplifies the optimistic, progrowth, projob creation Reagan-Kemp wing of the GOP. Grass-roots conservatives, Republicans, the Tea Party, and populists are looking for a man or woman of principle who can champion and unite the newly energized and engaged citizenry,’’ Benko said. “Mike Pence is the best choice to lead us into a new era of peace and prosperity.’’

Jack Kemp, who died in 2009, was a Republican congressman and vice presidential candidate. He was perhaps best known as an economic conservative who advocated low taxes and lowering barriers to supplying goods and services.

Pence, of Indiana, stepped down from his post in the House Republican leadership. He has considered a White House run or perhaps a campaign for governor. One of his party’s strongest advocates for conservative policies, Pence is among the GOP’s most outspoken critics of President Obama.

Clinton may face Chicago mayoral election dilemma
CHICAGO — Bill Clinton is coming to Chicago today to campaign for mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, but the former president’s visit is the cause of some controversy.

While the former White House chief of staff hopes Clinton can persuade voters to cast their ballots for him on Feb. 22, a former mayoral contender has warned that Clinton is risking his popular standing with the African-American community by backing Emanuel rather than a black candidate.

Clinton is scheduled to appear with Emanuel at the Chicago Cultural Center this morning.

Emanuel is among about a dozen names on the mayoral ballot.

Three of his rivals, former US senator Carol Moseley Braun, former schools president Gery Chico, and City Clerk Miguel del Valle, have emphasized their deep city roots while claiming Emanuel is more of a Washington insider.

Braun has the support of many black leaders in the city, while Chico picked up the endorsement of congressman Luis Gutierrez this month.

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