The Politics Of Prosecution
Dinesh D’Souza recently pled guilty to violating federal election laws by making political contributions to a New York Republican under false names:
D’Souza, known for his biting criticism of President Barack Obama, pleaded guilty to one criminal count of making illegal contributions in the names of others. A second count concerning the making of false statements is expected to be dismissed once he is sentenced.
The plea came four months after Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged D’Souza with using “straw donors” to give funds in 2012 to Republican Wendy Long’s U.S. Senate campaign in New York. Long, who met D’Souza while they were students in the 1980s, lost to Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand.
"I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids," D’Souza, 53, told U.S. District Judge Berman on Tuesday. "I deeply regret my conduct."
Conservative politicians and pundits characterized this as a politically-motivated prosecution:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) rushed to defend D’Souza at the time of his indictment. He slammed the charges as “an abuse of power” and asked Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, “Can you image the reaction if the Bush Administration had went, gone and prosecuted Michael Moore and Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn?”
Soon after, Cruz joined with Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, and Jeff Sessions of Alabama in a letter to FBI director James Comey Jr., quoting Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz in suggesting that D’Souza’s “politics have something to do with” the indictment and demanding to know how and why the alleged violations were discovered.
According to Media Matters, Fox News host Sean Hannity called D’Souza the “latest victim to be targeted” and put on President Obama’s “enemies list,” the hosts of The Five called the charges “politically motivated” and an example of liberals “rediscovering their inner Stalin,” and Neil Cavuto called it an example of “conservatives under attack.”
It is sad that people only seem to care about selective prosecution when it’s happening to “their” side. Many of Obama’s critics decry his failure to uphold the rule of law. Well, Dinesh D’Souza broke the law. He admitted to it. If upholding the law is really that important, then prosecuting people who break the law is part of that concept. As you reap, so shall you sow.
But since this prosecution is happening to a high-profile critic of a Democratic Administration, Republican lawmakers and Conservative political pundits now suddenly seem to care less about the “rule of law,” and have suddenly discovered the wisdom of Justice Jackson:
Law enforcement is not automatic. It isn’t blind. One of the greatest difficulties of the position of prosecutor is that he must pick his cases, because no prosecutor can even investigate all of the cases in which he receives complaints. If the Department of Justice were to make even a pretense of reaching every probable violation of federal law, ten times its present staff would be inadequate. We know that no local police force can strictly enforce the traffic laws, or it would arrest half the driving population on any given morning. What every prosecutor is practically required to do is to select the cases for prosecution and to select those in which the offense is the most flagrant, the public harm the greatest, and the proof the most certain.
Selective prosecution is outrageous. So why weren’t these same critics complaining about politically-motivated prosecutions when the Bush DOJ targeted Democrats for corruption probes in 2007? Furthermore, why didn’t they speak up when The Bush DOJ was purging Democratic lawyers from its rolls, essentially guaranteeing that selective prosecutions would occur? Furthermore, it seems relevant to mention that Democratic politicians are also being targeted for prosecution by the Obama DOJ. The prosecutors who indicted these cases could very well have been Republican appointees. Are these prosecutions politically motivated as well, or simply “upholding the rule of law?”
It’s certainly possible that the prosecutor who indicted Dinesh D’Souza had an axe to grind. But it would be nice if people who are upset about Dinesh D’Souza’s prosecution would be consistent about their outrage. And maybe save some of their outrage for the people whose prosecutions are the most outrageous.