Dinesh D’Souza faces more than a year in prison for giving away his money. Guilt lies with the law and not the lawbreaker here.
The conservative author pled guilty to violating campaign finance laws, which is another way of saying he opened up a lemonade stand without a license or ripped the tag off a mattress. The case stems from D’Souza’s 2012 donations through intermediaries to a friend’s senatorial campaign. Congress, made up of incumbents, has placed restrictions of dubious constitutionality on the amount individuals can legally donate to candidates. They haven’t, tellingly, placed any such limits on what they can legally raise or spend on campaigns.
The candidate D’Souza donated to, Wendy Long, lost the fundraising race 40 to 1 and the spending race 15 to 1 to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She lost the vote race by a mere 3 to 1 margin.
One could say D’Souza foolishly wasted his money on a lost cause. But does his unwise unselfishness really make him a criminal deserving of the penitentiary?
The guilty party, to his credit, admits the facts presented against him. The pursuing party, to their discredit, never explained why they seized on D’Souza’s two illicit donations when much grander transgressions of campaign finance laws by Harry Reid, the Obama campaign, and others have gone unnoticed by federal prosecutors.
D’Souza violated the law. The law violates his rights.
D’Souza has made a few missteps in recent years. A personal scandal, dredged up by men no longer on the payroll of the school he led, forced him from his six-figure job as president of King’s College. Hell hath no fury like an employee scorched.
The public intellectual strangely morphed into a product pitchman (“It’s pretty incredible. It’s called the Flip Tree. It’s an artificial Christmas tree…. No more heavy tree parts or complicated electrical cords.”).
The Flip Tree works as a not-so-nice metaphor for his recent intellectual output. He used to write scholarly books that elevated the curious common man. He has since delved into the genre of pseudointellectual quickies that rely on provocative theses that debase readers through ideological flattery and degrade author by so transparently chasing dollar signs. I’m still trying to figure out how a father Obama barely knew imparted his anti-colonial worldview so thoroughly into his son in the few hours they shared.
The books and movies make dollars. Do they really make sense?
Everybody falls. D’Souza, who possesses considerable writing talents and unmatched skills as a speaker and debater, surely can author a comeback as masterfully as he authored Illiberal Education and The End of Racism several decades ago. The felony conviction will be used by his enemies as a brickbat with which to pummel him. But it shouldn’t be. Losing oneself in the labyrinth of campaign finance laws, knowingly or not, may be a felony just as rape, kidnapping, and murder are felonies. But—get real—an illegal political donation isn’t a felony like rape, kidnapping, and murder are felonies. As far as crimes go, it ranks in seriousness somewhere above pool hopping but beneath keeping a library book for one’s private stash.
For the entrenched political class, which grasps the difficulties in challengers raising a little bit of money from many sources and the ease with which they might raise a lot of money from a few sources, D’Souza’s malefaction rises to an offense demanding the offender’s incarceration alongside drug kingpins, mafia dons, and the stars of To Catch a Predator. It’s their livelihood that people like D’Souza jeopardize, after all. They take it personally.
Arlo Guthrie, in the voice of a litterer, memorably described lockup as the environs of mother-rapers, father-stabbers, and father-rapers. In some quarters, spirited criticism of Barack Obama puts one in the category of such people. In sane quarters, unauthorized political generosity, even to Republicans, doesn’t exile one into that company.
As Alexander Pope said of a queen’s courtier despising him for biting satire, and the London Times later asked of the narcotics prosecution of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards: Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?