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Edwards acknowledges federal investigation into his campaign funds

Sunday, May 3, 2009 | 4:17 p.m. CDT; updated 6:12 p.m. CDT, Sunday, May 3, 2009

RALEIGH, N.C. — Former Democratic presidential nominee John Edwards, whose political action committee paid more than $100,000 to his mistress' company, acknowledged Sunday that federal investigators were looking into how he handled his campaign funds.

But the former North Carolina senator said he was confident no money was used improperly.

Edwards' political action committee has been under scrutiny for making payments to a woman with whom he had an affair. Edwards admitted the affair with Rielle Hunter in August after months of denying tabloid reports about the relationship.

"I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly," Edwards said in the statement. "However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the United States both the people and the information necessary to help them get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely matter."

Edwards' statement was first reported by The News & Observer of Raleigh.

His political action committee paid Hunter's firm $100,000 for video production in a four-month span in 2006, and then paid an additional $14,086.50 on April 1, 2007. At the time, the PAC only had $7,932.95 in cash on hand, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

That same day, according to the records, Edwards' presidential campaign paid the PAC $14,034.61 for what is listed as a "furniture purchase."

U.S. Attorney George Holding has declined to comment and said he won't confirm or deny an investigation.

Willfully converting money from a political action committee for personal use is a federal crime.

The furniture money was one of just five contributions to the political action committee between April 1 to June 30, 2007. The other four occurred on June 30, the last day of the reporting period, including a $3,000 contribution from the wife of Edwards' finance chairman, Fred Baron.

Baron, Edwards' national finance chairman and a wealthy Dallas-based trial attorney, said last year that he quietly began sending money to Hunter to resettle in California. He said no campaign funds were used and that Hunter was not working for the campaign when he started giving her money.

Edwards has said he was unaware of the payments. Baron died of cancer in October.

Hunter's videos documented Edwards' travels and advocacy in the months leading up to his 2008 presidential campaign.

Edwards, 55, powered onto the national scene in 1998, when he won a seat for the U.S. Senate in his first political campaign. With smooth speech and good looks, the former trial lawyer ran for the White House in 2004 and was tapped as Sen. John Kerry's running mate. He returned to the campaign trail in a 2008 presidential bid but was largely overshadowed by a duel between Hillary Clinton, vying to be the first female president, and Barack Obama, vying to be the first black president.

Since announcing the affair, Edwards has remained largely secluded. His wife, Elizabeth, will soon be releasing a book talking about the affair.


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