But there is also a separate 2002 FEC enforcement case that says a personal gift from a long-time friend could be used to make a divorce payment because of a pre-existing relationship and the fact that the loan wasn't given to advance a candidacy.
"The bottom line here is that in order for this to fall within the campaign-finance area, the money will have to have been some way coordinated with Edwards or his campaign," said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, who follows campaign finance law. "That makes the money which did not go through the campaign committee, nevertheless, an illegal campaign contribution or expenditure."
Some believe this case could ultimately serve to highlight problems with campaign finance law.
"The problem is that campaign finance law is overly complicated," Allison Hayward of the Center for Competitive Politics said. "Here we have an individual who has engaged in what most people would say is egregious behavior but the statute provides no ready answer for either the prosecutors or the defense attorney."