Prominent conservative writer and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza has been indicted in New York on charges that he broke campaign finance laws. D'Souza, a vocal critic of President Obama, is accused of contributing thousands of dollars over the legal limit in a 2012 Senate race.
Another charge alleges that D'Souza, 52, made false statements about the contributions, which he is accused of routing through third parties. That charge carries a possible maximum punishment of five years in prison.
NPR's Peter Overby filed this report for our Newscast unit:
"Federal records show that D'Souza gave $5,000 — the legal limit — to Wendy Long. She was the Republican candidate running against the eventual winner, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
"The indictment says D'Souza illegally funneled another $20,000 into the campaign through straw donors.
"D'Souza was a policy aide in the Reagan White House. He's written 12 books, including What's So Great About Christianity and, most recently, Obama's America, Unmaking the American Dream.
"Last year, he resigned as president of a Christian college in New York, after acknowledging that he had become engaged to a woman before he and his estranged wife were divorced."
D'Souza also made the film 2016: Obama's America, which became, as The Hollywood Reporter says, "a surprise hit in 2012."
The newspaper spoke to Gerald Molen, a producer of that film, who said that the campaign finance charges are motivated by political grudges.
"In America, we have a long tradition of not doing what is commonly done in too many other countries — criminalizing dissent through the selective enforcement of the law," Molen said.
In announcing the charges, officials seemed to take pains to say D'Souza was not targeted because of his opinions.
"The Indictment is the result of a routine review by the FBI of campaign filings with the FEC by various candidates after the 2012 election for United States Senator in New York," the Justice Department said in a news release, which identified D'Souza as a "former college president."
The indictment in Manhattan federal court was announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney for New York Preet Bharara and the FBI's New York office.
"As we have long said, this Office and the FBI take a zero tolerance approach to corruption of the electoral process," Bharara said in a news release today. "If, as alleged, the defendant directed others to make contributions to a Senate campaign and reimbursed them, that is a serious violation of federal campaign finance laws."
D'Souza's defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, tells the AP his client did not act "with any corrupt or criminal intent whatsoever," and he noted that the indictment doesn't charge D'Souza and Long with having "a corrupt relationship."