New York, Jan. 25: Dinesh D’Souza, an Indian-American best-selling conservative author and filmmaker, has been indicted on charges that he used straw donors to illegally donate to a 2012 Senate campaign.
The Mumbai-born D’Souza is an outspoken political commentator who directed 2016: Obama’s America, a scathing anti-Obama documentary released in the final months of the President’s re-election campaign.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said D’Souza, 52, had encouraged others to give $20,000 to a Senate candidate and reimbursed them for the donations. Election law prohibits such arrangements and caps donations at $5,000 per donor to any one candidate.
The Senate candidate was not identified in the indictment. D’Souza donated to only one federal candidate in 2012, giving $5,000 to Wendy Long, a New York Republican who lost her challenge to senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat.
Announcing the indictment, Preet Bharara, Manhattan’s India-born prosecutor, said his office and the FBI had a “zero tolerance approach to corruption in the electoral process”. D’Souza is to be arraigned in a federal court in Manhattan.
“If, as alleged, the defendant directed others to make contributions to a Senate campaign and reimbursed them, that is a serious violation of federal campaign finance laws,” Bharara said about the case.
FBI assistant director-in-charge George Venizelos said D’Souza trying to influence elections through bogus campaign contributions was a serious crime.
But D’Souza’s lawyer denied any criminality. “D’Souza did not act with any corrupt or criminal intent whatsoever,” Benjamin Brafman said in a statement. “He and the candidate have been friends since their college days, and at most, this was an act of misguided friendship by D’Souza.”
Prosecutors also charged D’Souza with causing the unidentified candidate’s campaign to unwittingly file false campaign documents.
It is not clear from the court documents what led investigators to D’Souza in a fund-raising case involving relatively small donations, in a race that ended in a blow-out win for Gillibrand. Long raised about $785,000 in the race.
Long and D’Souza were students together at Dartmouth College, where they worked on the staff of The Dartmouth Review, a conservative newspaper on campus. In the 2012 race, he was a host for one of Long’s fund-raisers.
D’Souza was considered an up-and-coming conservative voice when he arrived in Washington in the 1980s. He worked in President Ronald Reagan’s White House and for the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution, conservative research centres.