Comedian and Trump nemesis Rosie O’Donnell could find herself in hot water over allegedly making illegal campaign contributions to at least five Democratic national candidates. She gave a combined $5400 beyond the legal limits, but she claims it was “nothing nefarious” and she didn’t know there were limits (individuals may donate to as many campaigns as they like, but only $2700 for each primary, run-off and general election race). O’Donnell says she donated money through the liberal fundraising site ActBlue, assuming they would refund any overages. For the record, it’s never a good idea to rely on any website run by liberal activists to tell you when they’ve taken too much of somebody else’s money. It’s what they live for.
O’Donnell’s protestations of innocence are meeting with some skepticism, with critics noting that if she wasn’t trying to evade the laws, then why did she donate under four slightly different variations of her name and five different addresses? Also, she has a history of disregarding campaign finance laws, such as tweeting an offer of $2 million each to Senators Susan Collins and Jeff Flake to try to bribe them to vote against the GOP tax cut bill.
Usually, this is the kind of infraction that barely earns a tap on the wrist, but conservative author Dinesh D’Sousa is calling for O’Donnell to be prosecuted just as harshly as he was. He was accused of encouraging an associate to donate to a friend’s Senate campaign, then reimbursing them. Coincidentally, this was just after he’d released a documentary critical of Obama. Also coincidentally, he had the book thrown at him and was fined $30,000, sentenced to eight months in a halfway house followed by five years’ probation, and he’ll be branded as a felon for the rest of his life. He says that O’Donnell broke five campaign donation laws, which is five times worse than what he was accused of, so why should she be allowed to skate?
But I have a solution that I think is better, and Rosie may be surprised to hear that it doesn’t involve sending her to jail. How about if we let her off with a warning, and make the government refund D’Sousa’s fine with interest, apologize and clear his record? Then we could all agree that since we live in a free country, citizens who have strong enough beliefs about some public policy should be allowed to give as much of their own hard-earned money to promote that belief as they want. Free speech! (In elections, where paid advertising is essential, money is speech.)
Why is there an arbitrary limit of $2700, and who decided that was the magic number anyway? Why not just let everyone give as much as they want, but with all donations on the public record? You could offer a politician your entire life savings if you’re that passionate (or dumb)…but he would be under pressure to refuse it for fear of appearing to be selling himself to the highest bidder. Call it “big checks and balances.”
This story could be one of those “teachable moments” that could be used to teach so many things. Like teaching children what “equal justice under the law” means. Or teaching liberals that there really are too many federal laws, so many that we all break them without even knowing it. That's why we need to prevent out-of-control, politically-motivated prosecutors from railroading citizens they disagree with into jail for inadvertently violating one. Granted, that’s probably not a lesson Rosie O’Donnell wants to hear right now, but it could keep her out of the Big House.