The indictment of a major critic of the president has elicited little more than yawns from the media.
This is a case where you don’t even have to connect the dots. Just read a little history:
After news broke Thursday that federal prosecutors had charged conservative commentator, author, film-maker and professional Obama-basher Dinesh D’Souza with violating campaign finance laws, Walter Olson at the Overlawyered blog posted on the relatively mild civil sanction meted out to a “big-league trial lawyer” who’d done pretty much the same thing D’Souza is accused of. D’Souza has been indicted for allegedly paying $20,000 to reimburse straw donors to the campaign of Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long, who lost a 2012 contest against incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand. Arkansas trial lawyer Tab Turner, as Overlawyered recounted in 2006, reimbursed donors of $8,000 to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign and just had to cough up a $9,500 civil fine. By highlighting the contrast in his post Thursday, Olson seemed to be suggesting that D’Souza has been selectively targeted for prosecution because he’s so critical of the Obama administration.
Former acting U.S. attorney general George Terwilliger of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius raised the same suggestion in an interview Friday. Terwilliger, who served in the administration of two Republican presidents and later defended noted Los Angeles lawyer Pierce O’Donnell against campaign finance charges similar to those leveled against D’Souza, told me there are “legitimate questions that could be asked about the political motivation for bringing the case.” Want more conspiracy theorism? Dominic Gentile of Gordon Silver, who represented Nevada campaign finance defendant Harvey Whittemore, conducted exhaustive research on so-called conduit payments of the sort D’Souza is accused of making. In Whittemore’s sentencing memo, he documented civil and criminal penalties in “straw donor” cases. “Twenty thousand dollars?” Gentile told me. “I’ve never heard of a $20,000 criminal case” for campaign finance violations.” And at D’Souza’s arraignment Friday in Manhattan federal court, his own lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman that whatever D’Souza did, his conduct wasn’t criminal.
This thing stinks to high heaven of political motivation.
First, there is this very curious note in the DoJ press release on how D’Souza’s crime was discovered:
The Indictment is the result of a routine review by the FBI of campaign filings with the FEC by various candidates after the 2012 election for United States Senator in New York. Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI.
How is it possible that a measly $20,000 in donations could leap out at investigators during a “routine review”? Most people charged with this crime front hundreds of thousands of dollars — and end up with far lesser charges. And are we to believe this “routine review” only snared Mr. D’Souza? If $20,000 in contributions leapt out at the FBI, are we to believe that D’Souza is the only contributor guilty of setting up straw donations? Where are the other lawbreakers?
And why refer to D’Souza as a “former college president” rather than what he’s vastly more famous for — a conservative writer and filmmaker — if not to attempt to obscure the political nature of the prosecution?
The press release goes out of its way to mention D’Souza could go to jail for his crimes:
D’SOUZA, 52, of San Diego, California, is charged with one count of causing $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions to be made to a candidate for the United States Senate in calendar year 2012, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. He also is charged with one count of causing false statements to be made to the FEC in connection with the illegal campaign contributions, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
But as the Reuters blog points out, prosecuting and sending someone to jail for funneling $20 grand illegally to a campaign is unheard of.
Armed with this kind of information, you would think one — or maybe two — beat reporters at Justice would bestir themselves to at least ask Holder’s hack press secretary some questions along the lines of those raised above. Perhaps a talk with the FBI might be in order as well.
In both instances, they will get the usual runaround (“we don’t comment on open criminal cases”). But this case is apparently so unusual that you would think someone inside DoJ might be willing to fill in some blanks.
There’s nothing new about politically motivated prosecutions. But this particular prosecution seems so petty, so petulant, that only someone schooled in Chicago Way politics would approve it.
Does that bring anyone to mind? Bueller? Bueller?