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Ex-aide to Edwards says his house was built with campaign donations

John Edwards' former aide acknowledged Thursday that much of nearly $1 million in campaign supporters' cash went to build his North Carolina dream house, not to buy the silence of the presidential candidate's pregnant mistress.

Andrew Young testified for a fourth straight day at Edwards' campaign finance fraud trial, peppered with questions from Edwards attorney Abbe D. Lowell about the money from two donors that flowed into personal accounts controlled by Young and his wife.

Young has said he took secret payments from wealthy donors at Edwards' direction to help conceal the presidential candidate's affair with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, who had a daughter with the married Edwards, and keep his 2008 presidential campaign viable.

The former aide said the checks secretly provided by a then-96-year-old heiress were mixed with the couple's other house funds, much of which went into renovations and construction of their $1.5 million hilltop house on 10 acres near Chapel Hill, N.C. Young often deferred questions on the payments to his wife, Cheri, saying that "my wife is the one who handles the finances in our family."

Young initially said he was the father of Hunter's daughter and took her into his home with his wife. Lowell asked Young about numerous changes to the construction of the North Carolina house after the payments started coming in, including a pool, home theater and extra bedroom.

At the time, Young and his wife were living with Hunter in a $20,000 a month rental mansion along the California coast, paid for by a wealthy lawyer who served as Edwards' campaign finance chairman.

"We were living out in Santa Barbara, and we lost our sense of perspective," Young said on the witness stand. "The house became more and more extravagant."

Edwards denies knowing about the $725,000 in checks from heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon sent to Young through her interior designer. In addition to the maximum $2,300 to the Edwards campaign allowed by law, Mellon also provided another $6.4 million to a political action committee and anti-poverty foundation tied to Edwards. An additional $200,000 was given to the Youngs by the Texas lawyer, Fred Baron.

The questions about the cash from Mellon funneled to Young's house came toward the end of a full day of cross-examination, in which Lowell sought to undermine the ex-aide's credibility and paint him as a pathological liar.

Lowell pointed out inconsistencies with Young's account of the scandal at trial this week and in multiple other accounts.

Referring to the timing of a conversation with a law partner of Edwards, Lowell asked, "And you made that up too, didn't you?"

"No, sir," Young responded.