NEW YORK (RNS) Conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of violating campaign finance laws in contributions to a Senate candidate.
D’Souza was charged with making $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions to an unnamed candidate, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
In 2012, D’Souza reimbursed people who he had told to contribute amounts totaling $20,000 to a candidate’s campaign, according to the indictment. The candidate was not named in the indictment.
In 2012, D’Souza supported Wendy Long, New York’s Republican candidate for the Senate. Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand won re-election. New York elections records show D’Souza donated to Long’s campaign in 2012.
D’Souza is also charged with causing false statements to be made to the FEC, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Federal law during the time his contributions were made allowed individual campaign contributions up to a total of $5,000.
D’Souza resigned in 2012 as president of the King’s College in New York City, amid a scandal involving an alleged extramarital relationship. He resigned after the evangelical magazine World reported he brought his fiancee to a Christian values conference in South Carolina before filing for a divorce.
D’Souza’s appointment at King’s was initially under scrutiny because of his Roman Catholic background, which made him an unusual choice for a historically evangelical school. World magazine editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky resigned as provost shortly after D’Souza was hired.
D’Souza was replaced last year by Gregory Thornbury, formerly dean of the School of Theology at Union University.
D’Souza, 52, is a best-selling author and filmmaker. His movie “2016: Obama’s America” was the second-highest-grossing political documentary of all time, according to Fox News.
Before Christmas, he filmed an endorsement advertising a Christmas tree. As Christianity Today notes, D’Souza is scheduled to debate liberal activist Bill Ayers in an event billed as “The Ultimate Fight Between Left and Right” on Jan. 30 at his alma mater, Dartmouth College.
D’Souza narrated for a recent trailer for a new film titled “America, Imagine a World Without It … ” The film explores the question “What if America Never Existed?”
Update (1/25): D’Souza pleaded “not guilty” Friday (Jan. 24) in New York during his arraignment. He was briefly handcuffed before he was released on a $500,000 bond.
D’Souza’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said D’Souza’s action were merely “an act of misguided friendship” and that “there was never a corrupt agreement of any kind.”
FBI assistant director-in-charge George Venizelos said otherwise.
“Trying to influence elections through bogus campaign contributions is a serious crime. Today, Mr. D’Souza finds himself on the wrong side of the law,” Venizelos said. “The Federal Election Campaign Act was written to limit the influence of money in elections; The FBI is fiercely committed to enforcing those laws to maintain the integrity of our democratic process.”
The Hollywood Reporter says the debate at Dartmouth will still go on.