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Grand jury probing Edwards

A federal criminal investigation targeting John Edwards is examining how much the two-time presidential candidate knew about money used to cover up his extramarital affair and out-of-wedlock child, and whether any of his other practices violated campaign finance laws, people involved in the case have told the Associated Press.

A federal grand jury in Raleigh, N.C., is sifting records and testimony involving several political organizations and individuals connected to Edwards to determine if the former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee broke any laws. A recently issued subpoena focuses on a web of these Edwards-affiliated groups, according to subpoena details provided to the AP that offer a glimpse behind the closed doors of the investigation.

The case largely stems from money spent to keep Rielle Hunter, Edwards' mistress, in hiding along with former campaign aide Andrew Young, who initially claimed paternity so Edwards could continue pursuing the White House without the taint of the affair.

Investigators are looking chiefly at whether funds paid to Hunter and Young -- from outside political groups and Edwards' political donors -- should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid, according to several people involved in the case. They also are looking closely at whether any entities linked to Edwards operated illegally.

Whether prosecutors have found violations of a specific statute could not be determined. But federal election laws require disclosure of the money spent on campaigns for federal offices, limit the amounts of such donations and prohibit the conversion of campaign funds to personal use.

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