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Jan Baran Comments on Potential Consequences of the John Edwards Trial

The New York Times
May 23, 2012

Jan Baran, co-chair of Wiley Rein’s Election Law & Government Ethics Practice, was interviewed by The New York Times to discuss the criminal trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards, who is accused of breaking campaign finance laws in order to hide an extramarital affair.  If convicted on all six felony counts, Mr. Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.

The Times reported that “the question of guilt or innocence hinges on a single question: Did the money amount to gifts — as Mr. Edwards contends — or illegal and improperly reported campaign contributions, as the government contends?”

Mr. Baran said a criminal conviction could affect the way candidates conduct themselves. “A guilty verdict, assuming it holds up on appeal, would warn candidates to avoid personal gifts while campaigning,” said Mr. Baran.  But Mr. Baran warned that a not guilt verdict could have the unintended consequence of legitimizing personal gifts without limit and without disclosure:  “Your mortgage is personal. Your tuition is personal. Your groceries are personal. You wind up with a candidate beholden to wealthy individuals who otherwise could only give him $2,300 or $2,500 for his campaign.”