Trevor Potter Quoted in Variety, The Politics of Fuzzy Math

August 12, 2011, Variety
Excerpt taken from article.

Pierce O'Donnell is perhaps best known in Hollywood as the man who took on Paramount, representing Art Buchwald in a legal showdown that exposed the bookkeeping magic the studios have used to hide a movie's haul. Ever since, the phrase "Hollywood accounting" has conjured up suggestions of fuzzy math.

So there's no shortage of irony in O'Donnell's current predicament. Last week, he pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of illegal campaign contributions: In 2003, he got 10 employees of his law firm and others to each contribute $2,000 to the John Edwards campaign and then reimbursed them, violating election law. (Exacerbating O'Donnell's situation was his 2006 guilty plea to a previous case of "conduit" contributions, misdemeanor state charges of using a false name to give to the 2001 mayoral campaign of James Hahn.) He faces six months in prison and a fine.

But O'Donnell's case is interesting not just as an act of hubris or yet another piece of wreckage related to Edwards' political career but for the amount involved: about $20,000. In today's flood of campaign cash, that's small potatoes.

Trevor Potter, a Washington attorney with Caplin & Drysdale and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said the very act of "laundering" the money through straw donors shows that the real donors know it is wrong. Otherwise, they would try to give money directly to the campaign.

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