‘Bunny’ Mellon, heiress who propelled John Edwards’ campaign, dies

03/17/2014 3:41 PM

02/15/2015 10:42 AM

Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the heiress whose $3.48 million donation helped fuel John Edwards’ presidential aspirations, died Monday at age 103.

Mellon played a central role in the financing of Edwards 2008 presidential campaign and the resulting criminal probe into its finances.

The Washington Post obit of Mellon summarizes the situation: “Edwards, a North Carolina Democrat, was tried in 2012 on charges that he took nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions from wealthy donors to support his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and conceal her from voters during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Prosecutors attributed more than $700,000 to Mrs. Mellon and $200,000 to Texas lawyer Fred Baron.

“Mrs. Mellon, who was not accused of breaking any laws, was entranced by the charismatic Edwards and wanted to help his quest for the presidency after he was criticized during the campaign for having a $400 haircut, according to witnesses in the case. Edwards dropped out of the race in January 2008.”

Edwards won acquittal in one charge in the criminal trial in 2012 and the judge declared a mistrial in five others. Prosecutors decided not to retry him.

As the News & Observer reported in 2009, Mellon became smitten with Edwards, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina, during his first presidential run in 2004. And when he ran again the next cycle, she opened her wallet, funneling a total $3.48 million to his 2008 campaign.

From the story at the time: “His political views resonated with her,” said Jane Maclennan, an attorney for Oak Spring Farms, the holding company for Mellon. “His views would have brought the changes she wanted to the White House.”

“In particular, Maclennan said, Mellon appreciated Edwards’ fight to end poverty. Both she and her husband were committed to fair pay of their laborers, manual and corporate, Maclennan said.

“She may have seen a glimmer of another charismatic public servant she favored decades before, Maclennan said. With his looks and a youthful energy, Edwards likely reminded Mellon of John F. Kennedy.” ( Read the full story here.)

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