Fringey right-wing academic Dinesh D’Souza will be granted a presidential pardon Friday, relieving him of the “convicted felon” title he earned by orchestrating a straw-donation scheme that funneled money from an employee and a girlfriend into the campaign of a 2012 New York Senate candidate who went on to lose by 46 percentage points. President Donald Trump announced the pardon in a tweet Thursday morning.
The pardon is purely motivated by D’Souza’s outspoken support for the president and his cause célèbre status in corners of the far-right. But his case received more attention of late as conservatives drew false equivalencies between his conduct and that of Rosie O’Donnell, who donated more than the legal maximum to a handful of congressional candidates. D’Souza supporters claimed that her use of various versions of her name, and multiple addresses of homes she owns, constituted an effort to conceal her excess contributions, and therefore made her case comparable to D’Souza’s. The fact that she wasn’t prosecuted, they claim, shows the charges against D’Souza were selective and politically motivated. Officials at prominent pro-Trump groups repeated the trope this morning upon news of the pardon.
This is total nonsense. Excess campaign contributions are routine infractions frequently sorted out through run-of-the-mill Federal Election Commission communications with the campaign. In fact, the FEC has sent the Trump reelection campaign 96 pages of spreadsheets detailing apparently excessive and impermissible contributions just this year. O’Donnell donated to various campaigns under 15 variations of her own name. But that’s the key point: They were variations of her name. She didn’t donate in anyone else’s name. D’Souza, by contrast, admitted to illegally reimbursing donations made by two other people.