COAST co-founder Chris Finney has spoken and written extensively about the ethics charges against Jean Schmidt and his opinion that there are significant criminal acts committed in association with her acceptance of nearly $500,000 in legal fees paid by the Turkish Coalition of America.
The most obvious criminal offense according to Finney is the same thing Ted Stephens and Duke Cunningham were charged with, lying about gifts they had accepted on their annual financial disclosure form, in Schmidt's case with the House Clerk.
But arguably another violation was failing to report the gift on her campaign finance reports. The gifts were given because she was a candidate for federal office and to advance her election to Congress. She hid the gifts by failing to report them (even to this day) on her Federal Elections Commission reports filed at least quarterly for three years while and after accepting the gifts.
John Edwards' trial started today on felony charges for exactly the same offense -- in this case hiding gifts intended (even more indirectly in the John Edwards case) to advance his Presidential campaign. Schmidt and her campaign manager/Chief of Staff Barry Bennett have both admitted that the monies were advanced to help her campaign.
The New York Times today has a detailed piece on the start of the John Edwards trial.
[In fairness to Schmidt and Edwards, there is a legitimate question that Edwards intends to explore at his trial, as to whether the federal election law is intended to reach to gifts this far removed from campaigning. Even Melanie Sloan of CREW has commented that she does not think the criminal law should reach that far. But if Edwards loses on this issue, it establishes the precedent that Schmidt must also have committed the same crime.]
So, Jean Schmidt, Bruce Fein and Don Brey are likely watching the John Edwards trial closely, as his crime is her crime. And his prosecution may become Jean Schmidt's prosecution.