“In a democracy, it matters what we know about our candidates. We need to know who is influencing them, we need to know where they get their money from, and we need to know how they choose to spend that money,” prosecutor Robert Higdon told jurors in his closing argument.

That is true, yet the sordid Edwards episode was never a good case with which to make this point. In order to find him guilty, the jury would have had to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Edwards acted knowingly and willfully to violate the campaign finance laws. That was always a stretch. The Federal Election Commission (FEC), auditing the Edwards campaign after the revelation of nearly $1 million in payments from heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and the late trial lawyer Fred Baron, did not determine that the payments should have been reported on Mr. Edwards’s campaign filings.