Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza pleaded guilty Tuesday to using "straw donors" to make excessive contributions to a U.S. Senate candidate in the 2012 election. His plea came the same day his criminal trial had been scheduled to begin in a Manhattan federal court on charges that he made $20,000 in illegal contributions to Republican Wendy Long, a Republican who sought unsuccessfully to oust Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
The nation's campaign-finance laws aren't exactly stringent. Thanks in large part to conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, the system is woefully lax, making it difficult to actually run afoul of the law.
But right-wing provocateur Dinesh D'Souza, best known for his activism and racially charged rhetoric, stood accused of breaking the law anyway. As Rachel reported in January, D'Souza was charged with using straw donors to make illegal third party donations to a candidate for Senate in 2012. According to prosecutors, D'Souza encouraged others to contribute to a candidate and then reimbursed those donors for the contributions – in effect, using others to exceed campaign-finance limits.
After the charges were initially filed, D'Souza insisted he'd done nothing wrong. Today, D'Souza changed his mind.
In a statement, D'Souza's attorney said, "Mr. D'Souza agreed to accept responsibility for having urged two close associates to make contributions of $10,000 each to the unsuccessful 2012 Senate campaign of Wendy Long and then reimbursing them for their contributions."
It's not yet clear what kind of criminal penalty, if any, the far-right personality will face as a result of his guilty plea. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 23.
And while this is the latest in a series of ignominious twists for D'Souza's unfortunate career, the lingering question has to do with all the Republican lawmakers in Congress who were convinced these charges were not only baseless, but were also part of an Obama conspiracy.
After charges were first filed against D'Souza, Alex Jones and Drudge cooked up a doozy: the right-wing provocateur hadn't actually violated campaign-finance laws, they said, but rather this was an example of the White House using the Justice Department to target those who dare to condemn President Obama.
By late February, four U.S. senators -- including Iowa's Chuck Grassley, the man who'll likely become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee if his party retakes the majority in this year's midterms -- were demanding an explanation from FBI Director James Comey.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) quickly became heavily invested in the bizarre idea that D'Souza's only crime was criticizing the president.
Now that D'Souza has admitted to wrongdoing, one wonders if his high-profile allies will reflect on their error.