Did Dinesh D’Souza Use His Mistress To Break Campaign Laws?

Last week, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged the conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza with steering his own money to a candidate (later identified as his Dartmouth classmate Wendy Long) under the names of others—a serious violation of federal campaign finance laws. Campaign records reviewed by Gawker suggest D’Souza may have employed the names of his former mistress, his mistress’s husband, and his own personal assistant to cover his tracks.

D’Souza’s mistress, a conservative blogger named Denise Odie Joseph II, is the only individual donor who received a peculiar “contribution refund” from Wendy Long’s treasurer several months after Senator Kirsten Gillibrand defeated her in November 2012. The mandatory July 12 report where the refund is documented coincides with the beginning of the U.S. Attorney’s investigation into D’Souza. According to the Department of Justice, “a routine review by the FBI”—not an anonymous tip—led to charges against the Obama’s America filmmaker, who told The Hollywood Reporter that he first learned of an investigation in the middle of 2013.

D’Souza’s unusually brief indictment does not detail the evidence by which Bharara and the Federal Bureau of Investigation charged him with fraud. (Compare it with the indictment against disgraced lobbyist Paul J. Magliocchetti.) But the charges describe a timeline that certainly seems to implicate a particular cast of characters. Specifically, Bharara indicates that “in or about August 2012” and through July 2013, D’Souza “reimbursed others with whom he was associated and who he had directed to contribute a total of $20,000 to the campaign.”

So where did the $20,000 figure come from? While Joseph’s “contribution refund” compensated her for a $5,000 donation submitted under her name in October 2012, the rest of the money may have been submitted under the names of Joseph’s husband, Louis, and D’Souza’s personal assistant, Tyler Vawser. Both men, like Joseph, are at the very least “associated” with D’Souza—though it’s not clear why Louis Joseph, a doctor who lives in Michigan, would risk donating an illegal sum of money to an out-of-state candidate publicly supported by the man with whom his wife was cuckholding him.

On August 30, 2012, according to a quarterly report filed two months later, the Long campaign received a $10,000 donation under the name of Joseph’s husband. On the same day, the campaign received another $10,000 donation, under Vawser’s name. Campaign finance law caps individual contributions at $5,000, so both donations were flagged by Long’s treasurer for “reattribution/redesignation.” (By then D’Souza and his wife Dixie had both contributed the maximum amount to Long’s campaign.)

Vawser’s $10,000 donation was never split up or refunded, according to subsequent FEC filings. But on October 22, 2012—a week after D’Souza’s affair with Joseph scandalized the evangelical community and D’Souza resigned his presidency at The King’s College—Long’s treasurer “reattributed” $5,000 of Louis Joseph’s original donation to Denise Joseph, leaving Louis with an identical $5,000 contribution. (It's not clear from the filings why Joseph received a post-election refund for $5,000—a perfectly legal amount of money.)

If Joseph’s refund triggered the U.S. Attorney’s investigation (and Bharara’s timeline suggests it may have done so), it would have been quick work finding her husband’s original $10,000 donation, Vawser’s donation for the same amount (on the same day!), and finally the trio’s lowest common denominator: Dinesh D’Souza.

D’Souza’s lawyer has denied the charges, claiming they arose from “an act of misguided friendship.”

D’Souza, Vawser, and both Josephs all declined repeated requests for comment.

To contact the author of this post, email trotter@gawker.com

[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Denise Joseph’s website]