Conservative scholar Dinesh D'Souza lied to 2012 New York Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long about reimbursing straw donors to her campaign, federal prosecutors said as the anti-Obama polemicist pleaded not guilty to election law charges Friday.
"She informed the government that Mr. D'Souza lied to her about the source of these donations," prosecutor Carrie Cohen told Manhattan U.S. District Judge Richard Berman.
D'Souza was arraigned on charges of illegally routing $20,000 into Long's race against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
D'Souza, 52, of San Diego, an author and former Ronald Reagan aide, produced the popular anti-Obama documentary "2016: Obama's America." He resigned in 2012 as the head of King's College, a small Christian school in Manhattan, amid reports that he became engaged before getting divorced from his wife.
Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced the charges against D'Souza, which they said arose out of a "routine review" of campaign filings by the FBI.
Individuals are allowed to donate $5,000 to a federal race. Cohen said D'Souza had a person he lived with and a person he employed each give two $5,000 contributions in the names of themselves and their spouses, and promised to repay them.
"He reimbursed both of the individuals within a day or two," Cohen told the judge. She said that at trial the government would call Long and the straw donors, whom she did not name, as witnesses. Long and D'Souza were college friends at Dartmouth College.
Benjamin Brafman, D'Souza's lawyer, said that although there is "not much dispute as to what happened, there is dispute as to why it happened or if it violated election law."
"There was never a corrupt agreement of any kind, nor was there any request made that the candidate take any action or refrain from taking any action as a candidate," Brafman added in a statement after the hearing. ". . . At worst, this was an act of misguided friendship by D'Souza."
Berman allowed D'Souza to be released without posting any cash bail. His next court appearance was set for March 4. He faces a maximum 7-year sentence, but under federal guidelines any term approaching that length is unlikely.