D’Souza in the Gunsights

Dinesh D’Souza, who has written a book and made a movie heavily critical of Obama was indicted last week on charges of breaking federal campaign finance laws. The allegation is that he made strawman donations — reimbursing employees and friends for donating to the failed senate campaign of Wendy Long so he could exceed the $5000 campaign contribution limit. D’Souza has responded that he broke the law accidentally due to a “misunderstanding”.

This has given rise to accusations that Obama is targeting D’Souza. In particular, there has been focus on the case of Tab Turner, who organized strawman donations to the John Edwards campaign and paid a $50,000 fine. The problem is that this case is a bit cherry-picked. As noted by Reuters, these kind of prosecutions are very common although the punishment tends to be a bit inconsistent.

But if so, the politics are inscrutably Byzantine. Take Whittemore, for example. The Nevada lobbyist was accused and ultimately convicted of illegally funneling $150,000 to the re-election campaign of Senate majority leader Harry Reid. In addition to the mystery of why the Obama Justice Department would find it politically expedient to prosecute a Harry Reid supporter, there’s the twist that a Nevada developer who allegedly broke the same campaign finance laws as Whittemore by facilitating conduit payments to Reid’s campaign was never indicted and settled with the FEC. Why was one Reid supporter let off with a civil fine and the other prosecuted? Only the Justice Department knows for sure.

That very disparity, however, suggests that simple party-line retaliation doesn’t drive campaign finance enforcement decisions. In fact, if you look at the Whittemore sentencing memo, you’ll see that supporters of both Democratic and Republican candidates have been prosecuted over the last several years. And it’s not as though the Bush administration went after only Democratic boosters and the Obama Justice Department targets only Republicans. Former FEC chairman David Mason, who served on the commission from 1998 to 2008 and is now senior vice-president of compliance services at the political consulting firm Aristotle, tracks campaign finance cases closely. He told me they’re just not generally motivated by politics.

The decision to prosecute, according to Justin Shur of MoloLamken, who handled campaign finance cases in the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section from 2008 to 2012, is usually a matter of the defendant’s intent and the magnitude of the supposed wrongdoing. “I brought cases against Democrats and Republicans alike,” Shur said.

Steven Taylor points out that if Obama were going after his enemies, D’Souza would be an odd place to start.

The conspiracy theories are amazing, as they have to assume that D’Souza is some sort of huge thorn in Obama’s side. That is, even if we stipulate for the sake of argument that Obama is willing to use the DOJ as a political tool of this type, why on earth would he be targeting D’Souza? It is a bizarre notion. If Obama was willing to sic Holder on enemies, why not Rush Limbaugh? Roger Ailes? You know, people who actually influence the discourse. Or, for that matter, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, etc?

D’Souza is a big figure on the Right, but he doesn’t have a lot of mainstream cache. And his career took a big hit when had to resign from King’s college after carrying on with a married woman while he was still married to his first wife. I was a big fan of D’Souza a while back — his Reagan biography is very good. But he’s sort of drifted to the margin.

But then again, a guy making $20,000 in straw man contributions to a failed Senate campaign seems an odd place to enforce federal finance law as well.

You can also check out Ken White on the difficulty D’Souza will have proving a selective prosecution.

In short, a mere suspicious appearance — like the indictment of a vigorous critic of the administration — is not enough to show unconstitutionally selective prosecution. D’Souza’s attorneys should certainly explore the issue, but it will not be an easy motion to win. The system only nominally protects rights; for the most part the system protects the system.

To sum up: the prosecution is a bit suspicious and D’Souza’s attorneys will have a chance to look into it. But I am dubious that anything will come out of this.

Regardless of what comes out in D’Souza’s discovery, I do think we should revisit campaign contribution limits. While D’Souza appears to have broken the law and should punished for breaking the law — preferably with a civil not a criminal case — the law is kind of stupid. If D’Souza had donated that money to a single-minded PAC that supported his preferred candidate, it would have been perfectly legal. What he’s being punished for is more stupidity than corruption. I’d actually prefer that we remove the facade of campaign finance laws and just let people bankroll the campaign they want to. If George Soros wants to give a $1 billion campaign contribution to Hillary Clinton, let him … as long as it’s all out in the open where we know about it. I’d much rather see politicians bought and sold honestly than through strawman PACs called things like “Americans for America”. As far as I can tell, all our campaign finance laws have accomplished nothing when it comes to cleaning up Washington. All they do is allow the occasional prosecution of someone like Dinesh D’Souza.

Comments are closed.

  1. AlexInCT

    This is just more of that vindictive nature of this administration I pointed out was directed at the S&P, and which was dismissed as nothing. It isn’t odd that they went after D’Souza: it was convenient and they thought they had enough smoke to hide the motives. If you end up on the enemy’s list of these people, they will turn every government agency they can against you.

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  2. richtaylor365

    If there was even a scintilla of doubt about the motives of this thug administration and their willingness to use legitimate arms of OUR government to hurt their political opponents, check this out;

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/01/25/9-violent-criminals-who-paid-less-for-bail-than-2016-filmmaker-dinesh-dsouza/

    Robbers, rapists, attempted murderers, they pale to insignificance when compared to someone who dares to support the opposition.

    And to answer Hals question about why they are going after the small fish, that is what bullies do. The school yard bully always targets the weak or those seemingly unwilling to fight back. It is a simple character straight of like minded punks.

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  3. AlexInCT

    And to answer Hals question about why they are going after the small fish, that is what bullies do. The school yard bully always targets the weak or those seemingly unwilling to fight back. It is a simple character straight of like minded punks.

    ^^^^THIS^^^^

    And after they got a black eye going after Limbaugh and Fox News, they learned their lesson. Pick the entities that can garner the least support or have no avenue to inform people of what you are doing. So they hit the S&P and D’Souza, figuring neither can overcome their narrative, and even if they can, the lesson will be thought. The intent here is to make sure everyone thinking of going against them knows what can be done to them and decides it is not worth it.

    Despicable is an understatement.

    P.S. I am now thinking Robert’s insane ruling on Obamacare might have happened precisely because team Obama does this shit. Coupled with the NSA spying on everyone, I bet they got some juicy shit on him and blackmailed his ass to give them a pass on that abortion of a law.

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  4. Hal_10000 *

    Robbers, rapists, attempted murderers, they pale to insignificance when compared to someone who dares to support the opposition.

    Bullshit, Rich. You know as well as I do that bail is inconsistent from case to case and is set only partially on the seriousness of the crime. It is also set at a level to prevent flight and assure that someone will show up to court. D’Souza has made a lot of money from his books and his film. It is routine for bail to be set at very high levels for people who have the means. It took me ten seconds on Google to find similar bail levels set for people of similar means (and much larger bails for more serious crimes).

    See, this is the problem with the conservative echosphere these days: you cherry-pick. D’Souza is being targeted because some lawyer in 2006 was only fined. Let’s ignore the dozens of other cases that are relevant. D’Souza is being targeted because his bail is higher than 9 guys. Let’s ignore the hundreds or thousands of people with larger bail or no bail set at all. The problem is that you don’t care about facts; you care about Obama being evil incarnate.

    And let’s keep something in mind: D’Souza broke the law. He has basically admitted this. And this is not some obscure campaign finance law that only three people understand. This is a law that has been on the books as long as I’ve been alive. People are charged or fined for strawman donations to political campaigns all the time, including the Obama Administration charing people who donated to Democratic campaigns.

    The law is stupid. I think it should be gotten rid of. But let’s pretend this law suddenly appeared on the book just to get poor little Dinesh D’Souza.

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  5. Hal_10000 *

    The reaction to the D’Souza thing … and really D’Souza’s entire schtick reminds of the other problem with conservatism these days: the perpetual endless sense of victimhood.

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  6. richtaylor365

    Bullshit, Rich. You know as well as I do that bail is inconsistent from case to case and is set only partially on the seriousness of the crime.

    Are you honestly going to defend a bail practice where a robber/rapist/ attempted murderer gets a lesser bail than what D’Souza did? Holy smokes, man, listen to yourself. First CM defends the WH stiffing their guest with no dinner, then you defending this clear bail overreach, you guys need to do a better job of picking your battles.

    Tell me, who do you think is a greater flight risk, some felon who is looking at decades behind bars, or a guy that gave too much money to a campaign and is looking at a fine, which you said yourself he can clearly afford?

    the other problem with conservatism these days: the perpetual endless sense of victimhood.

    Is this opposites day and nobody told me? You can’t really believe that nonsense, talk about distortion of the century. The very fundamental tenet of conservatism is the desire to be left alone by the government and to our own devises, to be the captain of our own ship and be allowed to prosper and reap the bounties of our labor. You want to talk about victimhood, look at the other side. The very fundamental tenet of liberalism is that the government is needed to right societal ills, to level the playing field, distribute the bounty evenly and correct whatever harms the free market, capitalism, and nature has heaped onto society. The two sides could not be more different, sorry, but no victims on this side of the aisle.

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  7. Hal_10000 *

    Are you honestly going to defend a bail practice where a robber/rapist/ attempted murderer gets a lesser bail than what D’Souza did?

    No. I’m saying you need to look at the problem systematically, not cherry-pick nine cases out of the thousands in our court system. If you’re worried about excessive bail, there are hundred of other cases in our court system, including many where the federal government has seized assets under RICO to deny defendants the ability to pay bail or retain a lawyer.

    Is this opposites day and nobody told me? You can’t really believe that nonsense, talk about distortion of the century

    I’m sorry, Rich, everything I hear from the conservative echosphere these days is about how they are being oppressed, victimized, bullied, harassed and marginalized. Constant complaints about the “lamestream media” (in which, uh, Fox News is the biggest player). Constant complaints about the “War on Christmas”. Constant complaints when someone is fired or suspended for saying something. Any scandal involving conservative being some secret Obama conspiracy. Ken Cucinneli complaining about “bullying” because his opponent urged businesses not to support him. Rush Limbaugh calls some law student a slut and he’s the victim because the media jumps on him. Sarah Palin compare Obamacare to slavery. Ted Cruz compares people who oppose defunding Obamacare to Chamberlain. It never stops.

    Conservatism used to be about being left alone. Probably to the vast majority of the people who would consider themselves conservative (and most of the commenters on this site) it still is. But the voices that dominate the conservative media are constantly playing the victim card, constantly portraying themselves as oppressed. It’s a big reason I’ve been blogging a lot lighter lately. I can’t stand it anymore. It used to be fun being a conservative. Maybe, someday, it will be again.

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  8. CM

    First CM defends the WH stiffing their guest with no dinner…

    No idea how anyone can get “stiffed” when it was clearly spelt out that it was not intended to be a dinner party. No idea why people can’t just have the sort of party they actually want.

    “…you guys need to do a better job of picking your battles.”

    Couldn’t say it better myself. In fact that’s what I did say.

    The very fundamental tenet of liberalism is that the government is needed to right societal ills, to level the playing field, distribute the bounty evenly and correct whatever harms the free market, capitalism, and nature has heaped onto society.

    Nonsense. ‘Distributing the bounty evenly’ would be pure communism. ‘Correcting the market’ is about maintaining a sustainable and stable system of capitalism, as Adam Smith wrote about.

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  9. Hal_10000 *

    I should note that I’m not saying D’Souza was *not* targeted. I’m saying I need a little more than “here’s some criminals that paid less bail”.

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  10. richtaylor365

    No. I’m saying you need to look at the problem systematically, not cherry-pick nine cases out of the thousands in our court system.

    So since in your view these 9 cases were “cherry picked” I guess no others in those thousands you speak of would be less than what D’Souza got? You really want to go with that? And besides, you did not answer my question, if you are basing bail on the potential for flight risk, why the inequity? and who gives a rat’s butt if these were cherry picked, why should any violent felon get a lesser bail then the heinous crime of giving too much money to a specific candidate.

    And since you brought it up, I propose that the term “cherry picked” be banned for its irrelevancy. If my link listed 97 different cases, all involving violent felons that get a lesser bail, would it still be considered cherry picked? What is the magic number? And how is not any link we post involving any fact at all not cherry picked, since it is is using certain facts (but not all the facts presently available or will be discovered ever) to base an opinion?

    everything I hear from the conservative echosphere these days is about how they are being oppressed, victimized, bullied, harassed and marginalized.

    I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect a government which we all pay for and which is suppose to answer to “we the people” to serve ALL the people, not just the democrats. That is what you are hearing, an expectation of fairness, not victimhood. An even handedness in the government’s affairs, a reasonable request, but one that is not being fostered or adhered to. If you want to discuss the dozens and dozens of examples we have seen in the last five years, an administration that uses the IRS, the NSA, Justice, the NLRB, the EPA, whatever executive tool it has at it’s disposal to punish one side of the aisle, no, calling attention to this inequity is not victimhood, Lady Justice has a blind fold on her for a reason, I wish this administration would use one as well.

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  11. Hal_10000 *

    Here’s what I mean by systematic: look at federal cases involving this kind of election fraud and see if this is an abnormal amount of bail to impose.

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  12. richtaylor365

    So, $500,000 bail for $20,000 in campaign donations, this seems reasonable to you? And are you telling me that violations of this law, no matter how slight are all met with this severity of bail amount?

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  13. richtaylor365

    Tom Delay’s trial, violating campaign finance laws through money laundering, involved way more money than this, yet his bail was only $20 K. I’m sure I can find a ton more examples to prove that, yes, D’Souzas bail was abnormally high.

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  14. CM

    It began on the hard left, of course, in the 1990s, as every member of a minority group was designated a victim, and all were allegedly on the verge of being targeted or discriminated against. Godwin’s Law had to be constantly invoked back then as well. But today, what began on the left is ubiquitous on the right: those denying marriage rights to gays are in fact the real victims of lefty intolerance; whites, not blacks, are the real victims of our racial politics; and men are now the real victims of the feminized, big government left (see Hume; Brit, et al.). If you want to free-base on far right victimology, just track down the rhetoric of Sarah Palin. According to her, Christians now live in constant fear of legions of Obama’s jack-booted thugs, i.e. Wal-Mart greeters wishing them “Happy Holidays.”

    http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/01/27/the-cognitive-dissonance-of-the-one-percent/

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  15. Aussiesmurf

    I really object to the use by commenters such as Alex and rich of the general term ‘they’. ‘They’ are targeting D’Souza. ‘They’ have set the bail too high. There is not some monolithic entity that is the source of all left-wing thinking or action. The Department of Justice has laid charges (which neither Alex nor rich appear to consider were incorrect due to D’Souza’s innocence). A judge has set bail, at a level commensurate with flight risk, danger to the community and the accused’s economic status (the last of which is certainly relevant here in Australia, and I presume the US).

    If there is bad faith in this prosecution, could someone state clearly the chain of command? Who has directed the DOJ prosection? Who has ‘instructed’ the judge to set bail at this level? If it is abnormally high, why hasn’t the level of bail been appealled?

    I am absolutely going to defend a system where, in a specific instance, you could point out a person accused of murder receives a lesser (monetary) level of bail than D’Souza. You are surely aware that the severity of the alleged crime is only one of many factors in bail conditions.

    The allegation that the IRS has been used to target enemies of the Obama administration is laughable and has been debunked on many occasions. Please don’t sidetrack the discussion of this specific charge / bil application. The abuse of NSA information and powers is disgusting but obviously bipartisan.

    The little conspiracy theory regarding Chief Justice Roberts was noted with a smile.

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  16. AlexInCT

    I really object to the use by commenters such as Alex and rich of the general term ‘they’. ‘They’ are targeting D’Souza. ‘They’ have set the bail too high. There is not some monolithic entity that is the source of all left-wing thinking or action.

    Yes there is a “they”, even if you don’t like it. It’s this WH, the people in charge of the DOJ, the IRS, and the EPA, just to name a few, and a slew of corrupted leftist judges that think their job is to legislate from the bench. The left spent decades building this infrastructure, and they are now reaping the rewards of said entity.

    The Department of Justice has laid charges (which neither Alex nor rich appear to consider were incorrect due to D’Souza’s innocence).

    The problem isn’t with these charges. It’s with the people that do the same, or far worse, that never get charged. The issue is that the DOJ has become an enforcement tool for the Obama administration to use against its enemies instead of enforcing the law regardless of whom is breaking it. When you see democrats getting away with things that are far more serious, and only people that are Obama’s list of enemies being attacked, there is a problem.

    If there is bad faith in this prosecution, could someone state clearly the chain of command?

    I think the right point to make is that even if there was a way to show this it has not mattered. The media has ignored it, and people on the left, like you and CM, have not just ignored it, but actually excused and defended it.

    The little conspiracy theory regarding Chief Justice Roberts was noted with a smile.

    It’s only farfetched if you ignore the revelation that the NSA has spent just as much effort spying on congress, the SCOTUS, and any other organization or individual that the “they” you want to pretend doesn’t exist deem might stand in their way, and think this WH would not use said kind information to it’s advantage. It’s not as if we had proof, lets say, of the WH knowing shit about Romney’s tax returns and personal information that could only be obtained through some illegal means, for example, amongst a slew of other such staggering revelations of government agencies being used to target enemies (ask Patraeus what happened to him too) that we could help is establish a pattern to go from, and then, extrapolate that this is not very farfetched, and merits investigating (not by some partisan entity that never finds anything wrong regardless of how blatant it is that it is there either)….

    Nixon wants a do-over. He feels he was unjustly run out of town for doing far, far less than the criminals now in charge.

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  17. Xetrov

    The allegation that the IRS has been used to target enemies of the Obama administration is laughable and has been debunked on many occasions.

    Is the crack you’re smoking good? Because it has apparently destroyed reality for you, so I hope it was worth it.

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  18. richtaylor365

    Oh,look, that leftwing darling of jurisprudence has some choice comments about the D’Souza witchhunt;

    http://www.bizpacreview.com/2014/01/30/dershowitz-legal-experts-say-vindictive-dsouza-indictment-came-from-higher-up-97538

    Famed liberal Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz joined other legal experts in slamming the Obama administration for targeting conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza for campaign finance law violations.

    “This is clearly a case of selective prosecution for one of the most common things done during elections, which is to get people to raise money for you,” Dershowitz told Newsmax. “If they went after everyone who did this, there would be no room in jails for murderers.”

    Others that are familiar with this law and its application also chimed in;

    “What struck me first was that it is unusual in cases like these for the FBI to go out and actually arrest someone, simply because it is not necessary,” former federal election Commissioner David Mason told Newsmax. “And even less so in this case because [D’Souza] has enough prominence that it is fairly obvious that he is not a flight risk. White-collar indictments are made lots of times without an arrest being made.”

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  19. AlexInCT

    Rich,

    I had a liberal that was defending this witch hunt yesterday almost have a heart attack when I pointed out that if D’Souza can be prosecuted for this, surely Obama should be prosecuted for having his campaign turn off credit card verification during not one, but two presidential elections. After all, once that was done, anyone could cheat and give more than the limit, and even foreigners could funnel money in to affect a US election. Those are clear violations of the law, but Eric Holder turned a blind eye to that. Can you imagine the media furor had a republican done something like that?

    Double standards. Without those the left would have no standards. Anyone that still doubts that this was retaliation and intimidation, has not been paying attention to what these people are about. It’s the Chicago way, people. GANGSTA!

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