Witness: Edwards Used 101-Year-Old Philanthropist To Funnel Hundreds Of Thousands To Mistress
GREENSBORO, N.C. (CBS Charlotte/AP) — One of John Edwards’ most prolific donors, a 101-year-old philanthropist, felt like she was being used for her money after a request for tens of millions of dollars to endow a poverty foundation once his presidential hopes were dashed, a friend of the wealthy heiress testified Friday.
Interior designer Bryan Huffman said that 101-year-old Rachel “Bunny” Mellon was deeply angered after she was asked to provide $40 to $50 million in the summer of 2008 for the project. Huffman was a close friend of Mellon’s who funneled secret checks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the reclusive heiress to a fundraiser for Edwards. Some of the money was used to hide Edwards’ mistress and is at the heart of his campaign finance corruption trial.
Mellon had already given $6 million to Edwards’ causes, but Huffman testified that providing the more sizable sum would have required her to sell or restructure some of her holdings.
“She was rather apopolectic at the size of the figure they requested. She was really upset,” Huffman testified. “She said, ‘I cannot believe that the senator really wanted me for my money all along.’”
The request had been delivered by key Edwards aide Andrew Young, who also discussed the feasibility of the donation with Mellon’s financial adviser. Huffman testified that he called Young and told him Mellon was deeply offended and that Edwards needed to smooth things over.
The former senator apologized to her and said that he didn’t know how much money Young had asked for, Huffman said. When the interior designer relayed that information to Young, the aide laughed and reiterated that the amount was Edwards’ idea.
“He said ‘Just call me throw-me-under-the-bus-Andrew,’” Huffman said.
Huffman also testified that he felt like Young was being truthful.
“Everything he told me had been accurate, so my opinion was that he had told us the truth,” Huffman said.
The previous day, Huffman testified that he’d participated in a scheme masterminded by Mellon to provide $725,000 in checks for Edwards. The checks were written to Huffman with notations such as “Antique Charleston Table” in the memo line, and Huffman would endorse them and pass them along to Young. The ruse was intended to throw off money managers for the Mellon family.
Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts related to campaign finance violations involving about $1 million provided by Mellon and another donor. Some of the money was used to hide the Democratic candidate’s pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008. He faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted.
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