Dozens of conservatives are claiming the Obama administration is exacting revenge on conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza for criticizing the president in the hit documentary, “2016: Obama’s America” – but liberals insist it’s just another right-wing paranoid conspiracy.
The film was a box office sensation, bringing in more than $33 million and becoming the fourth highest grossing documentary of all time as President Obama campaigned for re-election in 2012. D’Souza’s latest film, “America,” is due in theaters July 4.
Numerous high-profile conservatives say emphatically that D’Souza’s criminal indictment is clearly payback for criticizing Obama.
Just in recent weeks, the Obama administration has pursued several well-known conservatives. Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife were indicted after they purportedly accepted gifts and loans from a political donor. Also, the IRS – recently under fire for improperly targeting the tea party – is now going after Friends of Abe, a group of Hollywood conservatives.
Now D’Souza has been indicted by a federal grand jury on two felony counts for violating campaign finance laws. He was charged with making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and illegally contributing $15,000 to a Senate candidate. He could face up to seven years in prison.
Asked whether she believes the indictment was politically motivated, Mitchell said, “Do I think this is politically motivated? I think if a Republican appointee had done this, the press corps would be going ballistic. Just consider how outraged they were when Bush asked for and received resignations of all U.S. attorney appointees at the start of his second term, something that is customary. Imagine if his appointee had gone after a George Soros friend. Imagine the outrage.”
In 2011, prominent Hollywood lawyer Pierce O’Donnell – a Democrat who contributed to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential bid – admitted to asking 10 people, including a relative and employees of his law firm, to each donate $2,000 to Edwards’ run. O’Donnell reimbursed the donors.
O’Donnell was indicted on three felony charges in 2008. In 2011, Politico reported, “The judge struck two of those charges in his ruling and later dismissed one at the request of prosecutors. With only misdemeanors on his record, O’Donnell could regain his law license, which was suspended after the charges were filed.” O’Donnell would serve only 60 days in prison, 500 hours of community service and pay a $20,000 fine.
In 2003, Sam Dealy wrote an article in The Hill, “Donations to Sen. Edwards questioned,” in which he reported, “Sen. John Edwards’ presidential campaign finance documents show a pattern of giving by low-level employees at law firms, a number of whom appear to have limited financial resources and no prior record of political donations. … In many instances, all the checks from a given firm arrived on the same day – from partners, attorneys, and other support staff.”
Each person gave the maximum contribution of $2,000, including spouses and relatives of staffers, some of whom had been in financial distress and even filed bankruptcy previously.
Dealy continued, “In the three-month financial reporting period ended March 31, the Edwards campaign reported raising more than $7.4 million, the vast majority from individual contributors. Records show that nearly two-thirds of these contributions came from persons connected with law firms.”
In 2013, Virginia businessman William Danielczyk was sentenced to two years and four months in prison and fined $50,000 for reimbursing straw donors who contributed $186,600 to Hillary Clinton’s 2006 Senate and 2008 presidential campaign.
Also in 2013, Florida developer Jay Odom, admitted to using straw donors to donate more than $23,000 in illegal donations to former Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign. He was sentenced to six months in federal prison and ordered to pay a $46,000 fine. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of causing a presidential campaign committee to make a false statement to the Federal Election Commission.
According to reports, the judge handling Odom’s case “noted with some frustration that several people who had written letters to him on Odom’s behalf said they found ‘nothing wrong’ with what he had done and stated ‘everybody does it.’”
As for D’Souza, Gerald R. Molen, producer for “2016,” called the charges against D’Souza “the equivalent of prosecuting a political dissident in the Soviet Union for jaywalking.”
“Yes, jaywalking in the Soviet Union is a crime, but it’s a minor crime. The real point is that you are a political dissenter and the government wants to put you away,” he told WND.
“When Dinesh D’Souza can be prosecuted for making a movie,” he continued, “every American should ask themselves one question: ‘What will I do to preserve the First Amendment?’”
Dave Weigel of the left-leaning website Slate, has labeled the whole question of whether Obama is exacting revenge a “Conspiracy of Dunces.” He told WND he doesn’t believe this case is about payback.
“The law is the law, and cases like these are usually settled,” Weigel said. “Yes, in general, it’s a problem that campaign finance law is so haphazardly enforced. But I don’t see the logic that would turn D’Souza’s actions, as reported in the indictment and described by his lawyer, into a conspiracy.”
He asked, “What’s the theory, that a lame-duck president would order the U.S. Attorney to nail this activist whose film – according to Republican focus groups – was a failure at turning voters against the president?
Weigel said, “Fame shouldn’t inure anyone from consequence if they break laws.”
Added Bill Ayers, President Obama’s longtime buddy, “He was indicted. I don’t know anything about the facts. I don’t know anything about the case. I’m not a lawyer. …. He was indicted. He was arrested. He’ll have his day in court. Who knows.”
The U.S. Attorney behind D’Souza’s indictment, Preet Bharara, is rumored to be on a short list of candidates to replace Eric Holder.
Stephen K. Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, told WND, “Given the scale of the allegations, it strikes me that the U.S. attorney went out of his way to intimidate and humiliate Dinesh. And for what purpose? If Preet Bharara demands ‘zero tolerance,’ let’s have at it – let’s have a full, unfettered FBI/Justice Department investigation into every allegation, starting with the fundraising apparatus built by the president and his ‘Chicagoland’ cronies.”
Brent Bozell, founder and president of Media Research Center, cited former President Bill Clinton and Obama’s own history of accepting highly questionable campaign donations.
“Let’s assume Dinesh D’Souza is guilty, and I mean 100 percent guilty. What is he guilty of? Circumventing FEC dictates by directing [$15,000] to a Senate candidate of his choice. Big deal,” Bozell told WND.
“First, in a multi-million Senate campaign, this is a fraction of a fraction. It ‘buys’ a can of soda pop, and that’s about it. Second, and more importantly, compare this ‘crime’ with Bill Clinton, who raised millions of dollars from questionable at best, and illegal at worst sources, including felons and Chinese Communist generals. Compare it to Barack Obama, who raised millions upon millions from who-knows-who-or-where to this day. Nothing ever came of their fundraising abuses, abuses one thousandfold larger than anything attributed to D’Souza. And yet he was arrested and forced to post a $500,000 bond.
“It is astonishing. Given all the other abuses of power swirling around this administration, so many of them finding their origins in the ‘Justice’ Department, do I see deliberate persecution against conservatives? I am not conspiratorial by nature, but I will say unequivocally, you better believe it.”
Liberal talk-radio host and political columnist Bill Press, author of “The Obama Hate Machine: The lies, distortions and personal attacks on the president – and who is behind them,” doesn’t buy the arguments of conservatives who point to other straw donor schemes and indictments as proof that D’Souza is being subjected to unjustifiably harsh treatment for the crime.
“As hard as I look, I fail to find any political conspiracy behind the indictment of Dinesh D’Souza,” Press told WND. “If he did, indeed, as his lawyers claim, do nothing wrong, he has nothing to worry about. Under our great system of justice, he will never be convicted or serve any time unless he’s proven guilty without any doubt.
“The two arguments raised by conspiracy theorists are absurd. True, it’s not rare for people to try to get around the law by making ‘shadow’ political contributions. But it’s still against the law, and you have to pay the price, if caught. Surely, conservatives don’t believe that the argument ‘everybody does it’ is a morally valid reason for breaking the law.”
Asked if he believes the indictment is political payback, Tucker Carlson, political commentator for Fox News and editor in chief of The Daily Caller, told WND, “If you’d asked me this three years ago, I would have dismissed the question as paranoid. I’ve always disagreed with Obama’s policies, but I never thought this or any other administration would dare use the IRS to crush its political opponents.”
He added, “Obviously I lacked imagination. The Obama people are perfectly capable of using law enforcement to hurt people they disagree with. We know this because they’ve done it.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., agreed, telling WND the indictment of D’Souza is “100 percent” political.
“Of course it is,” she said. “It is payback from the DOJ. Plus, it sends a signal to anyone else for 2016 who may be thinking of producing a movie.
“It is up to the candidate to return the money. This should have been found when the FEC filing occurred. I don’t know the details, but this could cost Dinesh literally millions in legal defense fees, plus destroying his name and making him toxic to conservatives and Republicans. These are the goals of the political destruction machine at the DOJ.”
She added, “It’s really to send a signal to others and to punish his success. This is worse than people can imagine.”
Likewise, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, told WND, “Yes, I think it is political. It fits a pattern of abuse of power. As someone else said, President Obama is the president Nixon wanted to be.”
Though he told WND he doesn’t know all the facts in the case, conservative icon and author Richard Viguerie said, “What I do know is that the Holder Justice Department and Obama administration, including its IRS targeting conservatives, have replaced the rule of law and the equal protection of the laws with politicized law enforcement. Is the indictment of Dinesh D’Souza politically motivated? It certain appears to be.”
“Is he guilty of what it is they claim he did? I have no idea,” Lynch said. But, he added, “Guilty or not, they’re going to throw him into the mud to discredit his name.”
He said if D’Souza were a liberal, he’d be a “superhero” in the mainstream media, like Michael Moore.
“How can Michael Moore make an anti-capitalism film then go buy a mansion on a lake? Where’s his investigation?” he asked. “Why doesn’t anybody ever look into him? He uses creative editing.”
Gary Bauer, president of American Values and columnist for Human Events, served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration for eight years as undersecretary of education and chief domestic policy adviser.
“I know Dinesh D’Souza well – he worked for me in the Reagan White House,” he wrote. “He is an extremely intelligent man and an articulate spokesman for conservatism. I won’t defend illegal behavior, but this case seems fishy.”
Bauer explained that cases like D’Souza’s have been historically treated as misdemeanors and offenders have merely received fines – when they are Democrats, as in the case of O’Donnell. He said typically these charges appear when a race has been hotly contested and every dollar makes a difference.
“In D’Souza’s case, the race was a runaway for the Democrat,” Bauer wrote. “The candidate D’Souza supported had virtually no chance. So why was the FBI targeting this race unless someone decided to go after Dinesh D’Souza?
“If D’Souza broke the law, he should be held accountable. But given the harassment of conservatives in Hollywood, the treatment of tea-party groups and Christian ministries and the targeting of James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas in New York, it is hard not to question whether justice in Obama’s America is indeed still blind.”
MSNBC’s Steve Benen lamented that “the right will take this opportunity to celebrate D’Souza as a political martyr.”
“Obviously, the idea that the Justice Department would go out of its way to target D’Souza is pretty silly and those pushing the argument have nothing to substantiate it,” he said. “But the takeaway from their reaction is that the indictment may actually help improve D’Souza’s standing in conservative political circles.”
Famed law professor Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax, “This is clearly a case of selective prosecution for one of the most common things done during elections, which is to get people to raise money for you. If they went after everyone who did this, there would be no room in jails for murderers.”
Matt Drudge of The Drudge Report recently tweeted, “They are going after the Obama critics with indictments. VA Gov. Now Dinesh D’Souza. Holder unleashing the dogs.”
And Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took to CBS’ “Face the Nation” to share his concerns on Jan. 26. Instead of airing Cruz’s statements about alleged retaliation by Obama, CBS edited the following comments out of the exchange:
“Let me tell you something that deeply concerns me – it’s the abuse of power from this administration. We’ve seen multiple filmmakers prosecuted and the government’s gone after them. Whether it was the poor fellow that did the film that the president blamed Benghazi and the terrorist attack on – turned out that wasn’t the reason for the attack – but the administration went and put that poor fellow in jail on unrelated charges. Or just this week it was broken that Dinesh D’Souza, who did a very big movie criticizing the president, is now being prosecuted by this administration.”
“Can you image the reaction if the Bush administration had went, gone and prosecuted Michael Moore and Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn?”
The following is a video of Cruz’s statement:
WND also attempted to contact more than three dozen liberal pundits and left-leaning organizations to ask them if they believed the D'Souza indictment was politically motivated and, "If Michael Moore were criminally indicted during the Bush administration after directing 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' would you have any suspicions about political motivations?"
Only Slate's Dave Weigel and liberal pundit Bill Press agreed to comment.
In a column on FrontPage mag, Robert Spencer wrote, "Liberals should be as concerned about this as conservatives. … For the evidence is mounting that D’Souza has indeed been targeted for being a public and high-profile foe of Barack Obama – a development that should disquiet anyone who believes in the value of a stable, functioning republic with a loyal opposition. …
Spencer noted that D'Souza's $500,000 bond had been set higher than that given to people accused of attempted murder, rape and assault.
"Decades of this have poisoned the well of American politics, and paved the way for Obama to take the demonization to the next level by unleashing the law on them," Spencer wrote. "Arresting prominent members of the opposition is the kind of behavior we have seen from the likes of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler; it is a hallmark of authoritarianism, not (until now) of politics in the United States. Of course, Stalin and Hitler didn’t stop with arresting their foes; they had them murdered as well, usually after a show trial. Obama is not doing that, but is even one step down this road one that Americans want to take?
"Leftist pundits who are waving away concern over the arrest of D’Souza should bear in mind that the worm could turn. They could, for some reason or another, find themselves somewhere down the line opposing the Obama regime or some other presidency that apes Obama’s strategy. Then those who are claiming that only believers in crazy “conspiracy theories” are concerned about the Obama Justice Department’s (to say nothing of the Obama IRS) clear pattern of singling out opponents of the president for prosecution while ignoring more serious crimes among his friends may find themselves on the receiving end of this tactic."
See a trailer for the upcoming "America:"