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Edwards' Good News: He's Not Prez

4859462Like any politician with higher ambitions, John Edwards naturally was disappointed to abandon his quest to become the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. But sometimes, you win by losing. How so? Well, consider what an Edwards administration would be dealing with right now.

To be sure, Iraq, Afghanistan and the economy would remain high on the agenda. But had history turned out otherwise and Edwards been installed as the nation's 44th President, his administration would today be scrambling to ward off the political version of DEFCON 1.

In August 2008, Edwards, who by then had dropped out as a contender for his party's top prize, acknowledged having conducted a 2006 affair with Rielle Hunter, a video producer who worked with his campaign. But on Sunday, the Charlotte News and Observer reported that federal prosecutors are investigating whether any of Edwards' campaign funds wound up getting used as hush money. The federal probe reportedly focuses on money donated to the campaign by nonprofit organizations, as well as whether Edwards used some of the funds to hide his affair.

In a statement, Edwards acknowledged having knowledge of the investigation, but insisted that everything had been above board.

"I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly," Edwards said in a statement to the newspaper. "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."

Still, this story is going to prove irresistible for the 24 x 7 bloviation-fest that is cable television. And it would be even more so were Edwards inhabiting the Oval Office. Consider the following elements in the Reporter & Observer piece:"A review of Edwards' campaign money will turn up a cluster of nonprofits, some not subject to the same rules of transparency as official campaign organizations. Records of one that does disclose donors, the Alliance for a New America, show that Edwards' 2008 campaign got a huge boost from a single source: $3.48 million from a holding company for Rachel "Bunny" Lambert Mellon, a 98-year-old matriarch of the late industrialist Andrew Mellon's family."
"Records show that Hunter was paid by a political action committee aligned with Edwards. She received $114,000 to film Edwards as he hopscotched the nation to rally crowds in the fight against poverty. She followed him to Uganda, where he met with starving children orphaned by attacks by rebel forces. Her "webisodes" live still on the Internet."
"The investigation is being conducted by the office of U.S. Attorney George Holding, and a federal grand jury could consider evidence. Holding, a Republican based in Raleigh, declined to comment on Edwards. Holding has helped prosecute several prominent Democrats."

What's more, next week, a memoir, "Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities," by Edwards' wife, Elisabeth, who is terminally ill with cancer, will go on sale. Among other things, Edwards recounts her reaction to her husband's admission that he had an affair.

Even if ultimately, there's no "there" there, this story was punctuated by sex, politics, money and spousal betrayal. Recall that when the Monica Lewinsky story broke in January 1998, the major U.S. media outlets, which were in Cuba to follow the Pope's historic visit, abandoned Havana to rush back to Washington. Is there any reason to believe that it wouldn't behave similarly again?

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.