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An idiot’s guide to federal fraud indictments

Bob McDonnell holds a press conference

Bob McDonnell holds a press conference to announce that his spirit has now taken over the bodies of women next to him.

With the advent of Supreme Court rulings such as Citizens United, precedents that money equals political speech, or ridiculous assertions that corporations are people; funnelling campaign donations into your back pocket in exchange for you own wholesale whoredom has never been easier. However, just as familiarity breeds contempt, ease can breed complacency – and if you’re say, just off the top of my head, a fiscal conservative whose own finances are in a mess, or indeed a Republican wind-bag with penchant for playing the victim card; campaign financing can be a minefield with a potential fraud indictment at the end of it. As such, here is my no nonsense guide to avoiding collapsing in on yourself like a dying star.

Former GOP Governor Bob McDonnell

It’s tough to be a fiscal conservative these days, particularly since the last GOP president to balance the budget was Dwight Eisenhower. Or that since the Nixon years it has been official GOP policy to rack up government debt like a student with a credit card, and then blame your deficit on “tax and spend” Democrats the second they enter office. All that is bad enough, but when your own finances lay in tatters it can be difficult to assert fiscal prudence for the nation with any degree of credibility. So it was a real tragedy when Bob McDonnell and his wife began 2014 with a Federal fraud indictment, having received thousands in gifts from a long time corporate supporter. Top Tip #1: That is a bit of a red flag to federal prosecutors and well worth avoiding.

McDonnell had spent a large portion of 2012 as a prospective Veep candidate, only to begin this year with a press conference explaining why he shouldn’t go to prison. Flanked by what appeared to be a female version of himself and a much younger female version of himself, the former governor was forced to appear in front of the assembled media in an attempt to convince the public he was not in fact rampant criminal scum. McDonnell assured the standard baying hack-pack that the thousands of dollars he had received, previously described as “gifts”, were in fact “loans”. Top Tip #2: Don’t describe the receipt of significant sums of money as “gifts”, as to normal people massive sums of hard cash tend to resemble “bribes”. Indeed this leads us quite happily into – Top Tip #3: If you are going to assert that the monies you received were “loans”, perhaps go to the trouble of drawing up loan agreements at the time, because when you then claim they were loans you have actual proof and don’t look like a floundering douchebag trying to cover your tracks.

Furthermore, if you are facing a federal indictment, perhaps don’t spend a large portion of the press conference expressing regret for the “completely legal” behaviour you have engaged in. Top Tip #4: If you would describe your own behaviour as “legal”, apologising for it might make people think it was “illegal”. Most people understand that you don’t generally need to apologise for NOT breaking the law, and when you do it could resemble an admission of guilt. Let’s be clear, guilt is generally attributed to those who HAVE broken the law, and this could well hurt your claim of LEGAL behaviour.

Dinesh D’Souza

Of course, you don’t have to be a former governor to go down in flames like a fighter jet with one wing. If you fancy taking a break from being destroyed in debates with public intellectuals like Christopher Hitchens, or making documentaries about POTUS that approximately 3 people will ever watch, then maybe campaign finance fraud is for you. Dinesh D’Souza is generally viewed as an intellectual powerhouse of the right-wing movement, because he tends to appear at CPAC each year and can occasionally string coherent sentences together. However, when you take the time to compare his words to his actions, this becomes slightly problematic. D’Souza likes to assert that family values are a key component of the party he is a proud member of, which makes it unfortunate when he is roundly busted for having a mistress and is then subjected to a very messy divorce. Incidentally, this is a good opportunity to detail here my Top Tip #1 for family values espousing politicians of any party: Don’t cheat on your wife/have a mistress. Bang. Job done.

Regardless, it’s when you start diverting political contributions to your friends’ campaigns that things start to get really tasty. What’s the problem, you may ask? You were only trying to help out a friend. Nope. Wrong answer. Top Tip #5: “Helping out your friends” is not a legal justification for campaign finance fraud, and is unlikely to convince federal prosecutors of your innocence. Hey, we all like to help out our friends. Just the other day, a buddy of mine needed a light for his cigarette and I was happy to oblige. But if that same buddy were running for office and had asked me for tens of thousands dollars, I would have given serious consideration to the legal implications of diverting campaign funds. That’s just basic. Furthermore, Top Tip #6: If the best your lawyer can come out with is “at worst this was an act of misguided friendship” you’re going to look like you actually did it and maybe need better legal representation.

Anyway, we’re only just getting started. D’Souza also managed to convince his then wife, Dixie D’Souza, to donate a further $10,000 to his friend Wendy Long for her New York Senate campaign. No problem there you might think, well, wrong again because it wasn’t her money and he in fact paid her it back. Pretty bad, but it does get much worse. D’Souza then also funnelled a further $15,000 through his mistress, Denise Odie Joseph, who is apparently not all that au fait with campaign finance law as the Long campaign had to give back $5000 in order to comply with the maximum donation of $10,000. So, if you’re not following this so far, that would be a total of $35,000 of diverted funds. Top Tip #7: Don’t funnel $25,000 over the legal limit through your wife and mistress (oh yeah, stay classy by the way) to your friends’ campaign, unless that is you fancy being indicted on one count of making more than $10,000 of contributions in the names of others, with a kicker alongside it; to wit, one count of causing false statements. Maximum penalty of five years and two years respectively for those charges, by the by.

Of course, you could always take to the press and claim this is just revenge for your anti-Obama film, rather than the abundantly clear fraud indictments they self-evidently are. But why bother with any of this? The whole idea of committing good old fashioned nuts and bolts fraud, in a culture that has essentially legalised bribery for elected officials, seems somewhat perverse on its own terms. The fact of the matter is that had McDonnell or D’Souza taken the time to funnel all this cash through a Political Action Committee we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Corporate donors and their paid dogs in both parties have fought for years to ensure that greasing the wheels is a relatively easy process, certainly nothing that would land you in a federal prison. Washington DC is a revolving door, with elected whores entering one door, only to emerge as lobbyists from the other. Industry lobbyists write legislation and then bribe politicians to get it enacted, and this is just the day to day. You play ball for long enough you can retire and go work for those same companies for significantly more money in the long run. Why have you got to go and fuck with the program? There’s plenty of gravy to go around. What are you, stupid or something? Perhaps so. Enjoy Prison.

James A. Foster is Editor at and can be followed on Twitter @ThisIsAdNauseam.

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