Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative filmmaker and author behind the widely-debunked and discredited film 2016: Obama’s America pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a charge of illegally contributing to a New York Republican’s U.S. Senate campaign in the names of other donors. D’Souza, an array of prominent Republican politicians, and several Fox News personalities had earlier dismissed the charges as mere political retaliation for his criticisms of the Obama administration.
In January, D’Souza was indicted at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for his 2012 donations to Wendy Long’s unsuccessful Senate campaign against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The charges were that he had circumvented federal campaign finance limits by reimbursing associates for $20,000 worth of contributions made in their own names to Long’s campaign. He was also charged with making false statements to the Federal Election Commission in the straw donor scheme — a charge that will apparently be dropped as part of his plea agreement.
While straw donor cases have been brought against donors to both parties in recent years, D’Souza’s lawyer responded in court papers that the charges against him were politically targeted ““because of his consistently caustic and highly publicized criticism.” D’Souza went on Megyn Kelly’s The Kelly File and described the indictment as retribution typical of Obama’s “broader pattern of going after people who are critics.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) rushed to defend D’Souza at the time of his indictment. He slammed the charges as “an abuse of power” and asked Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, “Can you image the reaction if the Bush Administration had went, gone and prosecuted Michael Moore and Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn?”
Soon after, Cruz joined with Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, and Jeff Sessions of Alabama in a letter to FBI director James Comey Jr., quoting Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz in suggesting that D’Souza’s “politics have something to do with” the indictment and demanding to know how and why the alleged violations were discovered.
According to Media Matters, Fox News host Sean Hannity called D’Souza the “latest victim to be targeted” and put on President Obama’s “enemies list,” the hosts of The Five called the charges “politically motivated” and an example of liberals “rediscovering their inner Stalin,” and Neil Cavuto called it an example of “conservatives under attack.”
But prosecutors filed evidence with court demonstrating that D’Souza’s claims of selective prosecution were “entirely without merit,” including audio recordings made by the husband of one of the straw donors that showed his wife discussing D’Souza’s plans in the event that the illegal donations were discovered.
D’Souza told the federal court on Tuesday, “I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids,” adding, “I deeply regret my conduct.”