The Crucible, Starring Dinesh D'Souza; And Other Political Dramedies

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 4 2014 2:55 PM

The Crucible, Starring Dinesh D'Souza; And Other Political Dramedies

More than a week after the charges came down, the campaign finance case that's ensared Dinesh D'Souza remains a rallying cry for the right. Not all of the right, obviously—like I wrote at the time, D'Souza had alienated plenty of potential allies—but definitely the writers inclined to accuse the Obama administration of extralegal meddling against its enemies. At National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy makes at least one strong argument.

Even more offensive, to my mind, is count two — the charge of making false statements to the government. To commit the species of campaign-finance violation alleged in count one, the defendant necessarily must cause the straw donor to file a false contribution report with the Federal Election Commission. That is, you cannot commit the donation offense without simultaneously committing the false-statement offense. For the government to charge both smacks of double jeopardy.

Less strong is McCarthy's argument that an Obama campaign offense was "resolved by a fine considerably smaller" than D'Souza's $500,000 bail. The campaign was fined $375,000, one of the largest FEC hits ever.

This whole argument reminds me of the fate that befell Jeff Smith, a former state senator in Missouri who had become, thanks to his documentary about a 2004 run for Congress, a rising star in the Democratic Party. As I write in this piece, about the good that "behind the scenes" documentaries do for the images of the "targets," Smith went to jail for 366 days over a fake statement he filed in a campaign finance document. Big news: U.S. attorneys do not ignore the famous scofflaws who draw their attention. They go after them. 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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