The New York Post recently reported that “Rosie O’Donnell made illegally over-sized campaign donations to at least five Democratic federal candidates, according to a Post analysis of campaign filings.”
The Post story goes on to state: “The liberal comedian has regularly broken Federal Election Commission rules limiting the total any one person can give to an individual candidate at $2,700 per election. The limit applies separately to primaries, runoffs and general elections.”
If the Post story is accurate, federal prosecutors have an obligation to charge O’Donnell with violating campaign finance law and to put her on trial. And if she’s found guilty, my advice to the sentencing judge would be to give her a sentence including confinement and a sizable fine – just as I received for violating campaign finance law.
If I – a prominent conservative – can be labeled a criminal for donating too much to a campaign, then far-left, Trump-bashing O’Donnell should get the same treatment.
If I must endure being a lifelong felon while O’Donnell gets off scot-free, can we say that Lady Justice is truly blind?
Lots of people in every election give more than they’re supposed to. In other words, campaign finance violations are extremely common. And they are almost never seriously prosecuted.
The New York Post article quoted prominent campaign finance lawyer Jan Witold Baran as saying: “Donors are rarely fined for excess contributions and then only if they are hiding the donations from the recipients.”
I was an exception to the rule and that has made me particularly interested in how campaign finance violations are handled. In the 2012 case, I gave $20,000 over the limit to a single candidate – Wendy Long, a college friend of mine running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in New York.
For that I was sentenced in U.S. District Court in New York City to eight months of overnight confinement, a $30,000 fine, five years of probation and one day of community service per week for five years. I’m still on probation and still doing the community service, which doesn’t expire until October 2019.
Now Rosie O’Donnell has been caught exceeding the campaign finance limit by giving more than the maximum permitted donation of $2,700 to victorious Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones in Alabama, victorious Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, and to three other candidates, the Post reported.
O’Donnell’s defense, as she wrote in an email to the Post, is that she didn’t know she was exceeding the limits. She wrote that candidates “should refund the money” if she donated too much, and added that “I just donate assuming they do not accept what is over the limit.”
I find this defense implausible because O’Donnell used four different – though similar –variations of her name and five different addresses.
The way O’Donnell choreographed her contributions clearly suggests that she was trying to conceal the fact that they were all coming from the same person. I suspect she knew she was breaking the law.
But even if O’Donnell was telling the truth, the law doesn’t work like that. Her defense is about as logical as the guy who thinks he can go just as fast as he wants on the highway, and believes that if he’s going too fast the cops can stop him and tell him to slow down. Try that the next time you get stopped and you’ll see it’s a futile defense.
Now in the old days, say the 1980s, if you had told me about O’Donnell’s offense and asked me whether I thought she should go to jail for it, I would have said she should not. Why?
First, because these campaign finance limits don’t make a whole lot of sense. Why set an arbitrary $2,700 limit when millionaires and billionaires can easily get around them and give huge amounts through political action committees?
Second, justice demands that the penalty fit the crime. Campaign finance prosecutions make the most sense when there is corruption involved: when someone is trying to get a quid pro quo, which is to say, get appointed to a position, or obtain favors from candidates upon their election. This was obviously not the case with O’Donnell.
Normally, O’Donnell’s type of offense is punished with community service and a fine. But we are not living in normal types, as my own campaign finance case illustrates.
Mine was a clear instance of politically motivated prosecution. Two indications of that are contained right in my FBI file, which is now in the hands of a congressional oversight committee.
In the FBI file, I’m red-flagged as a political conservative who made a movie critical of President Obama. Why mention this? The FBI did it to signal to the Obama Justice Department and its stooges that I was a political enemy they might want to prosecute.
The FBI also made an initial outlay of $100,000 to investigate my $20,000 case. Again, this is odd. But it is also consistent with a political hit. Clearly the FBI was working in cahoots with Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and his prosecutorial team in New York City to make sure that they nailed their target.
Finally, the injustice of the case can be seen in the verdict. No American has been even charged, let alone received such a severe penalty, for doing what I did. And no prominent person on the other side of the aisle had a similar case, until O’Donnell’s situation was recently brought to light.
O’Donnell seems by all accounts to have broken the law, and broken it five times. This makes her offense five times worse than mine, in my view.
I’m not saying she deserves five times the penalty I received, but I am saying that assuming the facts are true as reported by the Post – as O’Donnell herself seems to admit – she should receive at least a severe a penalty as mine. She is, after all, a serial or repeat offender and repeat offenses are always taken more seriously than a first and one-time offense.
Yet the same people who are jubilant over my conviction have gone dead silent on O’Donnell. They know my prosecution was political, and they approve. But now they want O’Donnell to get off with the normal treatment that usually goes with offenses uncontaminated by corrupt motives.
Yet justice isn’t just a matter of whether someone broke the law, but also about whether other similarly situated people are treated the same way. If I must endure being a lifelong felon while O’Donnell gets off scot-free, can we say that Lady Justice is truly blind? Of course not.
In an earlier time, President Jimmy Carter would no more dream of locking me up for exceeding a campaign limit than Ronald Reagan would consider locking up left-wing activist Michael Moore for the same offense. It was a kinder, gentler America.
But we don’t live in that America. The Democratic Party has been gangsterized by the likes of President Obama and Hillary Clinton, who were not above using the instruments of the state to put their political adversaries behind bars. And this course of action is generally approved by the progressive left in the media and groups like Media Matters.
There is only one solution to this: Do the same to them! And maybe this will show them that two can play at this game, and that if they don’t want their team being locked up for minor offenses, stop doing this to the other side. Paradoxically, the best hope for a return to civility and normalcy is to prosecute Rosie O’Donnell to the full extent of the law.
The Trump Justice Department should work with the U.S. attorneys in every district that O’Donnell may have broken the law. I’d like to see her face multiple indictments. And I won’t be especially sorry if she suffers the same fate I did, or worse, because I expect that she was one of those who cheered the loudest when I had my sentence read out to me.