Fishy 2004 Campaign Contributions?

By Theresa Cook

Aug 24, 2007 2:50pm

ABC News’ Theresa Cook, Jack Date and Raelyn Johnson Report:  The Michigan attorney who represented Dr. Jack Kevorkian and also ran for governor of that state in 1998 has been indicted for campaign finance violations relating to contributions made to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Michigan indicted Geoffrey Fieger and another attorney, Vernon Johnson, on an array of charges, including violating the Federal Election Campaign Act, making false statements, obstruction of justice and conspiracy, relating to campaign contributions made to the 2004 presidential coffers of Edwards, D-N.C.

According to the indictment unsealed Friday, Fieger and Johnson used "corporate funds to make prohibited campaign contributions to the Edwards for President committee, which totaled approximately, $127,000."

The alleged scheme was apparently an attempt to circumvent limits on individual campaign contributions, which were capped at $2,000 at the time of the alleged crime.

The Justice Department noted that Edwards’ campaign was unaware of the reported plan, and that the former Senator and his staff fully cooperated in the investigation. 

"The 2004 Edwards for President campaign held itself to the highest standards and made every effort to fully comply with legal requirements for campaign finance, as does the current campaign," campaign spokeswoman Colleen Murray said in a statement to ABC News.  "Senator Edwards expects his staff and supporters to do the same and live up to these standards."

As for Fieger and Johnson, they "solicited various persons (the ‘straw donors’) to write contribution checks to the Edwards for President committee, agreeing to provide the straw donors with the funds to make the contributions or reimburse the straw donors for their contributions," the indictment charges.

Both defendants are partners in the law firm Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Johnson & Giroux, according to the firm’s website.

In an FBI interview and in a company meeting, the indictment claims, Fieger pointed a finger at an unnamed deceased individual, saying that person was responsible for the questionable contributions.

The 10-count indictment, with some charges against both Fieger and Johnson and others solely against Fieger, could bring stiff charges if the men are convicted.  Each charge of conspiracy, false statements, and illegal campaign contributions could bring up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.  The obstruction of justice charge’s maximum penalty is up to 10 years in jail, with the same maximum fine.

"While we do not know if these charges will ultimately prove true, if he is found guilty, we will return this money in compliance with the law, FEC regulations and our own high ethical standards," Murray’s statement added.

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