Liar and fraud Dinesh D’Souza has landed himself in hot water. No, not because his books are full of half-truths, full-on lies, and propaganda masked as “facts”. No, not even because, as bad as his books are, his movies are worse in the verifiable-facts department. It’s because he’s gotten his hand caught in the cookie jar relating to campaign finance, specifically illegally donating to a campaign in other people’s names. The right has generally regarded these charges as politically-motivated, but had their collective foot shoved into their gob when he pled guilty to the charges on May 20th.
The immediate response from the right’s mouthpiece, Fox News, was to bring D’Souza on one of their shows and give him a soft-pitch interview in which they tried as hard as possible to make this President Obama’s fault. They tried to make it into an attack on a political enemy, that he lacked the mens rea and this was selective prosecution, but the fact that the man himself in his guilty plea that he “knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids” makes the mental state claims laughable at best. The selective-prosecution claim is comprehensively torpedoed by that D’Souza knew he was guilty.
It is a favorite canard on the right that Democrats are “buying elections”. This usually includes a reference to George Soros or someone else financially influential that supports liberal and progressive causes. It’s an interesting belief, especially combined with the ongoing assault from conservative groups and political action committees on existing campaign finance law. On the one hand, you have cries of foul play relating to charges of violating campaign finance, while the other hand is quite busily sawing away at the concept of campaign finance regulation as a whole, intent on releasing dark money contributions in unlimited amounts.
The example that jumps most readily to mind is the Citizens United Ruling. This was not a liberal group bringing suit to expand their ability to spread money around; this was an effort to unbind the greatest GOP donation source available, corporations. While the verbiage technically also helped unions, which largely tend to orient toward the Democratic side, the reality on the ground is that corporate interests have much more money to throw around. It’s the difference between releasing the waters behind your average beaver dam and blowing a huge chunk out of Hoover Dam; the quantities just don’t compare, and corporate donations hugely skew toward GOP candidates. In what could be considered a companion to the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court ruled in that individuals may donate to as many campaigns as they like, up to the still-existing personal limit (which Justice Thomas stated he would have preferred to eliminate). Given that there are far more affluent people in this country in the vein of Sheldon Adelson than in the image of Warren Buffet, this new freedom of money further slants the money environment toward the GOP.
Thanks to conservative efforts, the campaign finance laws in this country are more threadbare and riddled with holes than ever before. That would make one think that avoiding acting criminally would be relatively simple, yes? It was not a random stumble on D’Souza’s part that led him into illegal territory; he engaged in conspiracy with the people making the donations for him, and repaid them the donated monies. It was not a restrictive scheme of laws that caught him, but instead his desire to circumvent the very few that remain. The right can claim this was a political hit-job as much as they like; the truth is much different, that D’Souza decided that the act which conservatives cry wolf about in Democrats was acceptable… as long as the beneficiary is a Republican.
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