The PJ Tatler

D’Souza Sentenced for 'Crimes' of Speech and Association

Be careful. Associating voluntarily with others and pooling resources to express your political views could get you sent to prison. That’s the reality of campaign finance law, though it’s rarely articulated so plainly. The Blaze reports on the sentence just received by the director of America: Imagine the World Without Her, Dinesh D’Souza:

Conservative author and Obama critic Dinesh D’Souza has been sentenced to eight months in a community confinement center, five years probation, one day of community service a week during that probation and ordered to pay $30,000 for breaking campaign finance law during the 2012 election.

D’Souza pleaded guilty in May to charges he arranged for straw donors to contribute to New York Republican Wendy Long’s failed U.S. Senate bid.

“It was a crazy idea, it was a bad idea,” D’Souza told Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan before sentencing, according to Reuters. “I regret breaking the law.”

D’Souza’s contrite posture proved successful in avoiding prison time, but disappoints in so far as it lends legitimacy to the rights-violating travesty of campaign finance law. The moment could have been leveraged as an effective exercise in civil disobedience.

Though a tactic typically associated with the political left, acts of civil disobedience retain some virtue. When a law proves inherently unjust, disobeying it can serve a worthy purpose in protest. It worked for Martin Luther King and other practitioners during the civil rights movement, though it does come with the consequence of legal penalties.

The choice to engage in civil disobedience proves as personal as any, as the consequences to one’s future must be weighed against other values. For that reason, no one may rightly say that another should break the law in protest. That said, it would have been encouraging to see D’Souza challenge the moral legitimacy of the law he confessed to breaking.

What country would you think was being described if it were said that, as its resident, you could not lawfully join with neighbors in expressing your political views with all the resources at your disposal? Soviet Russia? Communist China? Castro’s Cuba or the statist nightmare of Venezuela? As it turns out, that description fits these United States. It’s a travesty of justice which needs to be put right.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 12:09 minutes long; 11.74 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)