Arrested conservative author's scheduled debate with antiwar activist at Dartmouth up in the air
By MEGHAN PIERCE Sunday News Correspondent and REUTERS
Conservative commentator and best-selling author, Dinesh D'Souza exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York on Friday. D'Souza pleaded not guilty on Friday to federal charges that he used straw donors to exceed campaign contributions to a U.S. Senate candidate in 2012. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
HANOVER - Before his arrest, conservative political commentator and author Dinesh D'Souza was scheduled to debate 60s-era antiwar activist Bill Ayers at Dartmouth College on Thursday.
The event headlined "What's So Great About America?" is being promoted as "the ultimate fight between left and right."
D'Souza, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1983, was indicted on Thursday on charges that he violated campaign finance laws and used straw donors to funnel as much as $20,000 to losing U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long, a Republican, and D'Souza's friend who also graduated from Dartmouth.
On Friday afternoon sponsors of the debate - The Dartmouth Review and Dartmouth College Republicans - were uncertain if it would move forward in light of D'Souza's arrest.
"We're actually unsure about that at this moment," said Stuart A. Allan, president of The Dartmouth Review.
Allan said his office has reached out to D'Souza to find out if his schedule has changed because of his arrest, but has not yet heard back from him.
The Dartmouth Review made no announcement regarding any changes as of Saturday afternoon.
Dartmouth College spokesman Justin Anderson said Friday that the college is merely providing a venue to the two Dartmouth student organizations and has been told as of Friday the debate is still going to take place.
On Wednesday, Ayers, one of the founders of the radical Weather Underground, announced on his Facebook page that he was looking forward to the debate and added news that D'Souza was to be arrested. "And today this news: Dinesh will be arrested tomorrow for corruption and fraud."
Headlined as "What's So Great About America?," the debate shares its title with D'Souza's 2002 bestseller, which argues for a renewed patriotism in the face of radical internal and external threats to America.
The debate is scheduled to take place in the Spaulding Auditorium at Dartmouth College in Hanover on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
D'Souza, who made the film "2016: Obama's America," pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A prosecutor told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman at a hearing Friday in Manhattan that Wendy Long, a Republican, who lost that race to Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, was the recipient of the funds and told U.S. investigators in an interview that D'Souza had lied to her about the source of the money.
D'Souza persuaded two straw donors and their spouses to each give a $5,000 contribution for a total of $20,000 to Long's general election campaign, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Cohen said Friday. She said that D'Souza lived with one of the straw donors.
"He said he would reimburse them," Cohen told the judge. "He did reimburse both individuals with $10,000 in cash after the contributions were made." D'Souza, 52, of San Diego, was accused in an indictment filed Thursday of violating federal law by using the straw donors to contribute four times the maximum of $5,000 that an individual is allowed to give during the campaign cycle. D'Souza himself made two $2,500 contributions to Long in March 2012, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The best-selling writer is also charged with causing false statements to be made to federal campaign regulators about the amounts and sources of the donations. Benjamin Brafman, D'Souza's lawyer, told Berman he tried and failed to dissuade the government from indicting his client. "I don't think there is much dispute as to what happened but why it happened and whether it violated federal law," Brafman said.
"At worst this was an act of misguided friendship by D'Souza," the defense lawyer said. "There was never a corrupt agreement of any kind," he said. "There was no quid pro quo in this case."
Berman, who ruled that D'Souza could be freed on a $500,000 bond, set the next hearing in the case for March 4.
The judge said D'Souza must tell the court if he intends to go outside of California and New York and must surrender his travel documents. D'Souza served as a policy analyst for late President Ronald Reagan and as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He was president of The King's College in New York City from 2010 to 2012, according to his website.