Conservative pundit, lecturer, and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza is facing prosecution in New York federal court for allegedly using straw donors to contribute in excess of federal limits to the campaign of Republican Wendy Long, who unsuccessfully challenged Senator Kristen Gillibrand for her seat in 2012.
According to the New York Times, D’Souza’s lawyer is claiming that the government “targeted” D’Souza “because of his consistently caustic and highly publicized criticism” of President Obama. D’Souza’s much-discussed 2010 essay and book, The Roots of Obama’s Rage, in which he blamed Obama’s “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior” on his adaptation of his father’s “anticolonial ideology,” made him a hero to many conservatives. D’Souza’s 2012 movie, 2016, which built on these conspiratorial themes, was used as bible study for Christian teenagers during the presidential campaign.
Around the time he is alleged to have arranged the illegal campaign contributions, D’Souza was experiencing another fall from grace, one which is apparently linked to the campaign finance case. His relationship with one of the straw donors the government alleged he used, Denise Joseph, was the subject of controversy after he brought Joseph, a woman who was not his wife, but who he introduced as his fiancé, to a Christian conference for which he was the keynote speaker, “Truth for a New Generation.” He was slated to speak on “the proof of God’s existence and goodness, despite the arguments of many atheists that God couldn’t possibly exist in such an evil, tyrannical world.”
After the evangelical WORLD magazine broke the story in October 2012, D’Souza raised a similar defense to the one in the campaign finance case, claiming its editor and publisher, Marvin Olasky and Warren Smith, had a “vendetta” against him, telling Christianity Today that their article was “a clear effort to destroy me and my career,” and displayed “a kind of viciousness masquerading as righteousness.”
D’Souza subsequently stepped down as president of The King’s College, an evangelical school in Manhattan.
In his book What’s So Great About Christianity, D’Souza had engaged in his own excesses of righteousness, claiming, among other things, that high divorce rates were caused by the “secular ethic.” Yet when he showed up to be the keynote speaker at a conservative Christian conference with a much younger woman sharing his hotel room, while he was still married to his wife, he was shocked, shocked, that his behavior might have been problematic for the conference organizers, who no doubt were paying him a handsome sum for a keynote speech on Christian truth and values.
The “Truth” conference took place in September 2012, a month after prosecutors allege that D’Souza arranged for the straw donations to Long’s campaign, using Joseph as one of the straw donors. From the Times:
The government, in its papers, asked that the judge, Richard M. Berman, allow it to introduce evidence that it says showed that Mr. D’Souza understood campaign contribution limits and rules when he arranged for the straw donations, and that he had even considered pleading guilty.
In March 2012, the government wrote, Mr. D’Souza contributed a check for $10,000 to the Long campaign, only to be told that the donation exceeded the $5,000 individual limit.
The campaign sent him a form requiring him to specify whether the contribution was from himself or a joint contribution with his wife, the government said.
A completed form was returned to the campaign reflecting that the $10,000 contribution came from Mr. D’Souza and his wife, prosecutors wrote, but they added that Mr. D’Souza’s wife has said that she did not authorize such a contribution or even know it was being made.
“The evidence of illegality with regard to his own and his wife’s contribution,” Mr. Bharara’s office wrote, “will help prove that the defendant knew that what he was doing in August 2012 was wrong and it was not a fleeting, accidental misjudgment; it was part of a larger pattern of flouting campaign finance limits he knew existed.”
What’s more, Joseph herself was married (side note: did D’Souza think it was consistent with “traditional morality” to claim a married woman as his fiancé?) and prosecutors say they have a recording surreptitiously made by her husband that implicates D’Souza further. The recording was made in October 2012, which was when this sex scandal was brewing and D’Souza was claiming persecution at the hands of Olasky and Smith. According to the Times, “Ms. Joseph was recorded as saying that Mr. D’Souza had told her that if he were charged he might plead guilty, but would initially plead not guilty because that ‘gives him a window of opportunity to get his story out there,’ the government said.”