Dinesh D'Souza's indictment on charges of illegal campaign donations seemed to confirm, for some conservative activists, what they've believed all along: That the "ongoing persecution of Republicans and Conservatives mirrors the attacks by the fascists of Europe on their opponents in the 1930s," as Pamela Geller wrote in a blog post on Thursday night, framing D'Souza's indictment as one of many "attacks" against conservative groups in the U.S. Although D'Souza, a Christian conservative author, has fallen a bit out of favor with the mainstream conservative moment in recent years, he's still a beloved Obama critic in some circles. Here was Drudge's quick-fire response to the indictment:
They are going after the Obama critics with indictments. VA Gov. Now Dinesh D'souza. Holder unleashing the dogs...— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) January 23, 2014
And a later, follow-up observation:
Holder dangling 'indictments' over News Corp's head too. Behavior modification... http://t.co/O2fwJO7xty— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) January 24, 2014
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, of course, was charged earlier this week in a long-running investigation into whether his acceptance of expensive gifts and loans from a wealthy donor broke any laws. Another conservative blogger, who writes under the name Ace of Spades, gave a list of other "coincidences:"
- Coincidence: Hollywood's only conservative group is getting close IRS nonprofit scrutiny
- Another Coincidence: James O'Keefe Group Being Audited by NY. Again.
- Yet Another Coincidence: Dinesh D'Souza Indicted For Election Fraud
- Still Another Coincidence: IRS Proposes New 501(c)(4) Rules That Just Happen to Cover Most Tea Party Groups
- Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin's 'John Doe' Subpoenas
The Dinesh D'Souza story smells. Hillary gets away w/murder & now this? #Setup— NMFun1 (@NMFun1) January 24, 2014
"If you want to see what American fascism would look like," Ace adds, "this is it." And this is a line of thinking that D'Souza himself is promoting. Right as the Department of Justice released the indictment against D'Souza, he tweeted, "IRS targets Hollywood Conservatives — wasn't this supposed to stop?" He's referring to the IRS's scrutiny of "Friends of Abe," a conservative group of Hollywood types. When The New York Times picked up on the investigation earlier this week, some, including Herman Cain, accused the IRS of trying to silence conservative Hollywood celebrities in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential elections. D'Souza's only other tweet so far on his indictment linked to a Hollywood Reporter interview with Gerald Molen, a co-producer for his recent film, 2016: Obama's America. Molen also believes that the charges are the result of political targeting:
"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...In light of the recent events and the way the IRS has been used to stifle dissent, this arrest should send shivers down the spines of all freedom-loving Americans."
Federal charges being brought against filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza by Eric Holder for making a film unflattering film about Obama.— Lew (@lewsmuse) January 24, 2014
According to the Hollywood Reporter, D'Souza learned about the investigation into his campaign donations to U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long "several months after 2016 had earned $33 million at the box office and become the second-most-popular political documentary in U.S. history." The implication is that the feds only began to investigate D'Souza's donations after his film did well (the DOJ's statement suggests the investigation began with a "routine" check into FEC records), which brings us to the reason why the D'Souza persecution theory will stick: to its believers, it doesn't matter whether he did it or not.
Shortly after the indictment became public, D'Souza's defense team issued the following statement, referring to the fact that D'Souza and Long go way back with each other:
"Mr. D’Souza did not act with any corrupt or criminal intent whatsoever. At worst, this was an act of misguided friendship by D’Souza. . .It is important to note that the indictment does not allege a corrupt relationship between Mr. D’Souza and the candidate.”
That's not a denial, something that even Ann Althouse acknowledged in her response to the charges. But as is perhaps appropriate for D'Souza's predilection for conspiracy theories, some activists are putting the charges against D'Souza in contrast to a long-running theory first raised by Geller that three Palestinian brothers who apparently bought and resold $29,000 worth of Obama t-shirts in the Gaza strip (such a purchase counts as a campaign donation, and showed up in the FEC's database), represent some sot of relationship between the president and Hamas, the Islamist group that governs the Gaza strip. The Obama campaign said that despite some sort of bureaucratic error keeping their refunds off of the FEC's records, they returned the 2008 donations once the error was discovered. Geller et al. say the administration is lying, presumably because of Obama's secret Hamas love. A current FEC record search for the surname of the brothers in question indicates that all but $891 of those donations were refunded. Essentially, the question from some conservative activists here is why hasn't the FEC arrested the Obama campaign over those donations, instead of investigating D'Souza's alleged straw donor scheme?
Of course, it could be that famous people facing legal trouble seem to commonly assume they're being singled out because of who they are. D'Souza is not the first prominent individual to face charges for allegedly using straw donors to give more than the legal limit to political campaigns. Nor is he the first to fall back on the assumption that the feds must be targeting him for those contributions because he's famous. Prominent Hollywood lawyer Pierce O'Donnell went to jail for six months for giving $20,000 in donations to John Edwards's 2004 run for president (how sad). In court, according to a 2008 Los Angeles Times story, his lawyers initially argued that he was being targeted for his criticism of the Bush administration, and his work representing Hurricane Katrina victims in a lawsuit against the government.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.