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State GOP changes course, cancels fundraiser headlined by admitted felon

By David Gutman, Staff writer
AP file photo
Conservative scholar and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza (left) and his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, leave a New York federal court in May. D’Souza pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions. The West Virginia Republican Party announced D’Souza as the headliner for its annual dinner Wednesday morning, and then canceled the event later that afternoon.

Hours after announcing Wednesday that their annual fall fundraiser would be headlined by a prominent conservative author and filmmaker who awaits sentencing on a federal felony, West Virginia Republican Party officials changed course and canceled the event.

Dinesh D’Souza, who in May pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge of making illegal campaign contributions, was to have headlined the state GOP’s annual “Victory Dinner” on Sept. 19. Just four days after that date, he is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in New York, where he faces 10 to 16 months in prison, according to his plea deal.

The quick reversal from the state party followed criticism from West Virginia’s most prominent Republican, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who said she would not attend the D’Souza event and would not allow her name to be associated with it in any way.

“Neither the campaign or Shelley had any knowledge of the decision to invite D’Souza to speak nor do we agree with the invitation,” Capito campaign spokeswoman Amy Graham said in an email. Capito is running for the U.S. Senate.

Alex Mooney, the Republican House candidate in West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, would not comment on the event or say if he’d planned to attend before the event was canceled. State Sen. Evan Jenkins, the GOP candidate in the U.S. House’s 3rd District, also would not comment.

In canceling the event, state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said, “We look forward to having an event that all conservatives can be proud of, as we look forward to a great success in November.”

Lucas said the fundraiser would be rescheduled for later this year and that D’Souza would not be a part.

When the D’Souza event was announced in a Wednesday morning news release, Lucas said the state party was, “proud to bring him to West Virginia at such an important time in our state’s Republican turn to red.”

D’Souza, an adviser to President Ronald Reagan, is the author of several best-selling books about conservatism and Christianity. His film, “2016: Obama’s America,” is among the highest-grossing documentaries of all time. It argues that the “anti-colonialist” views of President Obama’s father help explain why Obama, in D’Souza’s view, rejects “American exceptionalism” and is trying to reshape America. He also argues that American guilt about slavery is what led to Obama’s election.

In May, D’Souza pleaded guilty to using “straw donors” to donate to the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of New York Republican Wendy Long. He donated more than $10,000 to Long’s campaign in the name of other people.

“I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids,” D’Souza told the court in pleading guilty, according to Reuters. “I deeply regret my conduct.”

A clerk for U.S. District Judge Richard Berman — who will sentence D’Souza — confirmed that his sentencing is still scheduled for the morning of Sept. 23.

Since June 16, D’Souza has been on a nationwide bus tour to promote his newest movie, “America: Imagine the World Without Her.”

“Dinesh D’Souza’s conservative message is a tremendous and timeless one on the past glories of our nation and what we must to do preserve it for the sake of freedom worldwide,” Lucas said in the email that announced the cancellation of D’Souza’s appearance. “He is a true champion of the conservative cause in America.”

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.


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