Edwards indicted over campaign funding fraud

A federal grand jury indicted the two-time US presidential candidate John Edwards yesterday over $925,000 spent to keep his mistress and their baby in hiding during the peak of his 2008 campaign for the White House.

The case of USA vs Johnny Reid Edwards contains six counts – conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements. The indictment said the payments were a scheme to protect Mr Edwards' White House ambitions. "A centrepiece of Edwards' candidacy was his public image as a devoted family man," the indictment said.

"Edwards knew that public revelation of the affair and the pregnancy would destroy his candidacy by, among other things, undermining Edwards' presentation of himself as a family man and by forcing his campaign to divert personnel and resources away from other campaign activities to respond to criticism and media scrutiny regarding the affair and pregnancy," the indictment added. The indictment and an arrest warrant were filed in Greensboro, North Carolina, the district where his campaign had its headquarters.

Negotiations between Edwards' attorneys and federal prosecutors to settle on a charge to which Edwards was willing to plead guilty continued through Thursday, but proved fruitless. The indictment is the culmination of a federal investigation that lasted more than two years.

The centrepiece of the investigation was the hundreds of thousands of dollars privately provided by two wealthy Edwards supporters – his former campaign finance chairman Fred Baron and Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the 100-year-old widow of the banking heir Paul Mellon. That money eventually went to keep his mistress Rielle Hunter and their baby in hiding in 2007 and 2008, during the apex of the Democratic nomination campaign.