RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A veteran civil rights lawyer has resigned as treasurer of John Edwards' 2008 presidential committee, days after the Federal Election Commission upheld a ruling ordering the campaign to repay $2.1 million in taxpayer money.
Edwards' campaign filed a form with the FEC on March 20 replacing Charlotte lawyer Julius Chambers as treasurer. Chambers told The Associated Press last month that he had informed Edwards' lawyer he wanted to sever all ties to the committee.
The Democrat's still-active 2008 primary campaign spent $836,712 on legal fees, staff salaries and other expenses in 2011, despite an FEC ruling that it must repay public matching funds improperly received after Edwards dropped out amid a sex scandal.
The AP reported in February that Edwards' staff had been electronically signing Chambers' name to the campaign's required quarterly disclosure reports. That came despite Chambers' contention he had never seen the documents and had no knowledge of how the money was being spent.
Experts in campaign finance law said the practice was questionable, because under federal law Chambers could be held liable for any errors or misstatements made in the reports.
Most of the recent spending by Edwards' campaign was to appeal the FEC's unanimous ruling last year that it must repay the $2.1 million, an amount roughly equal to the cash the committee still reported having in its accounts at the end of 2011. On March 13, the FEC upheld its earlier ruling and ordered the campaign to repay the money within 30 days.
That deadline is set to expire next week, as Edwards faces the start of his criminal trial on unrelated federal charges over nearly $1 million in secret payments from two wealthy donors used to hide his pregnant mistress as he campaigned for the White House. He has pleaded not guilty.
Edwards asked Chambers to serve as his campaign treasurer in 2007, when the former North Carolina senator launched his second presidential campaign.
Chambers, 75, is highly regarded in the state. During the 1960s, he served as an attorney in landmark cases striking down segregated busing and challenging employment discrimination. Both his home and office were firebombed.
In 2001, Chambers retired as chancellor of North Carolina Central University and returned to private legal practice.
Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck