The feds are investigating whether former Sen. John Edwards broke any laws - besides those of decency - when he cheated on his dying wife with a campaign staffer.
The US attorney apparently wants to know if the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate paid off mistress Rielle Hunter by siphoning cash from his campaign war chest or programs he set up to help the poor.
Hunter gave birth to a daughter in February 2008, just as the affair was hitting the headlines. Her sister claimed the child is Edwards' and that he paid to keep the unemployed videographer away from reporters.
After many denials, the North Carolina Democrat finally admitted the affair but not paternity. A married campaign staffer, Andrew Young, said he was the father.
Edwards' former campaign finance director, Fred Baron, said he bought Hunter a house in California and also made payments to Young. He claimed Edwards didn't know about the payoffs. Baron died last year.
Campaign finance laws bar candidates from spending donations on personal expenses.
Edwards is a multi-millionaire who might be expected to have many sources of unregulated cash to hush up an affair.
The former North Carolina senator told the Raleigh News & Observer he was cooperating with the probe. The National Enquirer broke the story, saying a grand jury has already looked at some of the evidence.
"I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly," Edwards said in a statement to the newspaper.
"However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the United States both the people and the information necessary to help them get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely matter. We appreciate the diligence and professionalism of those involved and look forward to a conclusion."
Hunter was paid $114,000 by Edwards' political action committee to film mini-documentaries.
Edwards was forced from the 2008 race by the tawdry revelation that he had begun his race while cheating on wife, Elizabeth, who has stage four breast cancer. Hunter even accompanied him on his announcement tour in 2007.
The affair had broader political implications than the usual tacky election year scandal.
Democrats were infuriated by Edwards' betrayal of his popular wife - and his brazen recklessness. Had his affair been revealed after he won the nomination, Republican John McCain would likely be president now.
Some Hillary Clinton staffers have speculated that Edwards, who forced the former first lady into a humiliating third place in the Iowa caucuses, tipped the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.
The investigation is being conducted by the office of U.S. Attorney George Holding in Raleigh, N.C.
The suspicion that some of Edwards' campaign money may have been used to pay Hunter or Young angers some of his former donors.
Former Edwards donors told the Charlotte Observer they were disgusted that he might have used their cash to carry on or hush up a fling.
"If they were stealing money to cover up John's personal failings, it is profoundly disappointing," said San Francisco attorney Jim Finberg, who continuted $25,000 to an Edwards fund. "My heart goes out to Elizabeth Edwards. I am sorry this is how she has to spend her last days on earth and how their children will remember their father."