The Sunlight Foundation: Sex and Taxes: What the Romney Returns and the Edwards Precedent Say About Political Slush Funds
The cloak and dagger tale circulating on the Internet about a group of hackers who claim to have purloined old tax returns of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and say they will release them to whoever is first to pay their ransom suggests why a federal court case that absolved former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards of campaign finance crimes was wrongly decided.
During his 2008 campaign, Edwards relied on the largesse of two wealthy Democratic donors to keep his affair with campaign worker Rielle Hunter secret. Edwards’ campaign did not report the donations, nor did it report the payments made to support Hunter, who was pregnant with Edwards’s child at the time. Had the public learned of Edwards’ affair, his candidacy would most certainly have been over. Justice Department lawyers argued that Edwards, in benefiting from huge undisclosed financial support and undisclosed expenditures, flouted campaign finance laws that limit the size of donations and restrict the uses of that money to campaign purposes. The jury disagreed (as did many campaign finance experts) and Edwards walked free.
Fast forward to the 2012 campaign, and a story almost as bizarre as l’affaire Edwards. An anonymous group claims that it broke into a Tennessee office of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm that prepares Mitt Romney’s tax returns. The group further claims that they secured years of Romney’s returns, and has offered to sell them to whomever can come up with $1 million in an Internet currency known as bitcoin. If no one antes up, the group says they will release the tax returns to the media.