Dinesh D’Souza pleaded guilty recently to charges that he violated federal campaign finance laws by having other people launder his donations to a Senate candidate. Now there’s an even bigger instance of this same thing, a Utah businessman who says he gave $50,000 to others to donate to Sen. Mike Lee’s campaign.
Indicted businessman Jeremy Johnson told state investigators that he laundered tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Mike Lee’s successful 2010 Senate bid at John Swallow’s request — a flagrant violation of federal election law.
The bombshell is buried in a 41-page affidavit supporting a newly unsealed search warrant in the ongoing criminal investigation of Swallow, Utah’s former attorney general, and his predecessor, Mark Shurtleff.
Johnson said that at the request of Swallow, who was helping Lee raise money, he gave about $50,000 of his money to other individuals, who subsequently donated to Lee’s campaign. Federal campaign law bars such straw donations.
“It’s clearly a violation. You can’t make a contribution in the name of another, and effectively giving money to someone else to make a contribution is clearly that,” said Bob Biersack, a senior fellow with the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based group that monitors campaign-finance law and trends.
“I would characterize it as a serious violation, one that federal prosecutors look at closely and often prosecute,” Biersack said. “People go to jail for that.”
Johnson told investigators he did the same thing for Shurtleff when the then-attorney general was considering a 2010 run for the U.S. Senate, orchestrating more than $100,000 in straw donations — again at Swallow’s request — before Shurtleff abandoned his campaign, citing concerns for his daughter’s health.
Maybe they can share a cell.