Conservative filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza failed to win dismissal of his federal charges for using straw donors to exceed campaign donation limits yesterday. D’Souza’s attorney argued that the recent McCutcheon decision by the Supreme Court rendered the law unconstitutionally vague. Judge Berman also nixed D’Souza’s desired fishing expedition for evidence that he is a victim of political payback.
The judge also denied a request by D’Souza, a prominent critic of President Barack Obama, to seek the production of evidence that would support his claim the prosecution was in retaliation for his political activities.
“The court concludes the defendant has respectfully submitted no evidence he was selectively prosecuted,” Berman said.
It is true that D’Souza’s contributions would have been legal post-McCutcheon, which points to just how quickly we can all expect billionaire donors to exceed even the new, more generous limits set by the Roberts Court. Far from making American politics better, all this money will serve to make the current system even less democratic that it already is.
This system forces candidates to spend much of their time raising money from the wealthy and from business. Even if no direct quid pro quos are involved, candidates may simply absorb the views of the better-off by osmosis.
The danger is of a vicious cycle in which politicians adopt policies that favour the better-off; this gives the wealthy more money with which to lobby politicians, which leads to more favourable legislation and so on. The surge in inequality over the last 30 years could perhaps be attributed, in part, to this process.
Short of a constitutional amendment, there are not many ways to prevent a dystopian future where all but the richest Americans are shut out of the political process. One of them is to enforce the remaining limits with high-profile convictions to deter other people from breaking the laws.
D’Souza’s trial begins next Tuesday, and we will of course stay on top of the story.