Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series based on interviews with former Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers after his debate with Dinesh D’Souza Jan. 30.
HANOVER, N.H. – In response to direct questions in a WND interview immediately after his debate last week with Dinesh D’Souza at Dartmouth College, unrepentant Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers declined comment on D’Souza’s indictment for alleged violations of federal elections law.
Yet, at a book signing after the debate, Ayers explained to a Dartmouth student that he expected D’Souza would accept a plea settlement, pleading guilty to a lesser charge to avoid a prison sentence.
Ayers’ answer seemed to indicate he believed D’Souza was guilty and that he didn’t view the prosecution as political.
In contrast, however, the Department of Justice brought only misdemeanor charges against a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards in the 2004 campaign for very similar alleged violations.
D’Souza has pleaded not-guilty to making an illegal $20,000 donation by reimbursing friends who contributed to the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York of his longtime friend, Republican Wendy Long, who lost to Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand.
Ayers predicts D’Souza will cop plea
“Mr. D’Souza has had some federal charges brought against him for elections violations,” a student asked, approaching Ayers in the book-signing segment of the program after the debate. “What does it feel like to watch this man have accusations like that filed against him?”
Rather than answer the question directly, Ayers said, “I have no knowledge about what the facts are, but if it’s an example of money and politics and more corruption in politics, that’s a very bad thing.
“And I think that, you know, aren’t corporate contributions in politics and Citizens United enough? Do we also have to sneak around for $20,000? That seems so petty. But I don’t know the facts, so I can’t really say. My guess is they will negotiate some sort of a plea deal.”
Still, Ayers said, if D’Souza is convicted, he should not be imprisoned.
“I’m a prison abolitionist,” he said. “I think he should be asked to do community service. And I think he should be asked to work for the enfranchisement of the disenfranchised.”
Approached by WND at the conclusion of the debate, Ayers deflected comment on the D’Souza indictment, as have many on the left.
“What do you think about Dinesh D’Souza being indicted?” WND asked Ayers. “What’s your reaction?”
“What should my reaction be?” Ayers asked back.
“We don’t know,” WND responded. “Why don’t you tell us?”
“He was indicted,” Ayers said. “I don’t know anything about the facts. I don’t know anything about the case. I’m not a lawyer and I’m not an investigator.”
WND asked: “So, you have no opinion on it at all?
“Tell me what happened,” Ayers replied.
“He was indicted …” WND started to explain.
“He was indicted and arrested,” Ayers interrupted. “He’ll have his day in court. Who knows?”
Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, were communist revolutionary terrorists who bombed the Capitol, the Pentagon, police stations and banks in the 1970s. They went underground after Dohrn was charged with instigating riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. Several of of their Weather Underground associates were killed when bombs they were building blew up in a Greenwich Village townhouse. The group was planning to bomb Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey. Ayers participated in more than 30 bombings in 11 years. In a New York Times op-ed published Sept. 11, 2001, he wrote: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Ayers and Dohrn surfaced in 1980 and turned themselves in to face the Chicago riot charges. But the federal charges were dropped because the FBI used illegal wiretaps to learn of their crimes.
‘A pattern of giving’
In the Edwards case, the DOJ filed a civil misdemeanor complaint against Arkansas trial lawyer Tab Turner when he was accused of reimbursing four staff members of his law firm some $8,000 for contributions to Edwards. Additionally, Turner was accused of charging more than $2,000 in hotel and rental car expenses to the law firm for Edwards campaign staff travel.
WND reported that in 2011, prominent Hollywood lawyer Pierce O’Donnell – a Democrat who contributed to Edwards’ 2004 presidential bid – admitted to asking 10 people, including a relative and employees of his law firm, to each donate $2,000. 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.
The misdemeanors allowed O’Donnell to regain his law license, which was suspended after the charges were filed. He was sentenced to only 60 days in prison, 500 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.
The Hill reported in 2003 Edwards’ presidential campaign finance documents showed 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, the Hill reported, all the checks from a given firm arrived on the same day. 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.