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Conservative author Dinesh D'Souza hit with federal charges

Conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza was charged Thursday for allegedly violating federal campaign finance laws.
Dinesh D'Souza in St. Petersburg, Fla., April 17, 2013.
Dinesh D'Souza in St. Petersburg, Fla., April 17, 2013.

Conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza was indicted Thursday for allegedly violating federal campaign finance laws, the Justice Department announced.

D’Souza, an author and the former president of King’s College, is accused of “causing $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions to be made to a candidate for the U.S. Senate in calendar year 2012,” according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. He is also charged with causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission.

“As we have long said, this office and the FBI take a zero tolerance approach to corruption of the electoral process,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “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 lawyer hit back at the charges Thursday evening. "It is important to note that the indictment does not allege a corrupt relationship between Mr. D'Souza and the candidate. 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, or as a U.S. Senator, if her political campaign were to have been successful," Ben Brafman said in a statement.

"Simply put, there was no 'quid pro quo' in this case, nor was there even any knowledge by the candidate that Campaign Finance Rules may have been violated," Brafman continued. "Mr. D'Souza did not act with any corrupt or criminal intent whatsoever. He and the candidate have been friends since their college days, and at worst, this was an act of misguided friendship by D'Souza."

The U.S. Attorney's office in New York City would not comment on which candidate D'Souza had allegedly violated campaign finance laws by donating to. Federal Election Commission records show that D'Souza has only ever contributed to one candidate, Wendy Long, who unsuccessfully challenged New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012. D'Souza held a fundraiser for Long and maxed out his contributions to her campaign. Long was also a student at Dartmouth and a trustee of the Darthmouth Review in the 1990s. 

D’Souza is a longtime conservative activist who first rose to prominence in the 1980s through his involvement in the Dartmouth Review, a conservative paper that drew attention for inflammatory attacks on perceived liberal excesses -- among them, publishing private correspondence outing Dartmouth students as gay at a time when society at large was more homophobic than it is today. More recently, D'Souza has been known for his insistence that President Barack Obama's policy preferences can best be understood as part of the ideology of "Kenyan anti-Colonialism" bestowed upon him by the father he hardly knew. 

In 2012, D'Souza was ousted as the president of King's College, a small religious Christian college in New York City, after appearing at a conservative event with his "fiance" even though he was still married to another woman.

D'Souza has not personally weighed in on the charges except to post a quick update to his Twitter account Thursday evening:

Matt Drudge, founder of the eponymous Drudge Report, also took to Twitter to claim that Attorney General Eric Holder was "unleashing the dogs" against critics of the president.

D'Souza also made headlines recently after tweeting a tone-deaf joke about Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager who was shot to death in Sanford, Florida in 2012. “I am thankful this week when I remember that America is big enough and great enough to survive Grown-Up Trayvon in the White House!” he tweeted ahead of Thanksgiving. D’Souza later deleted the tweet, but not before insisting there was nothing offensive about it.

David Taintor contributed to this report.