Dinesh D’Souza, a best-selling conservative author and filmmaker, was indicted on Thursday on charges that he used straw donors to illegally donate to a 2012 Senate campaign.
Mr. D’Souza is an outspoken political commentator who directed “2016: Obama’s America,” a scathing anti-Obama documentary released in the final months of the president’s re-election campaign.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said that Mr. D’Souza encouraged others to give $20,000 to a Senate candidate and reimbursed them for the donations. Election law prohibits such arrangements and caps donations at $5,000 per donor to any one candidate.
The Senate candidate was not identified in the indictment. Mr. D’Souza donated to only one federal candidate in 2012, giving $5,000 to Wendy Long, a New York Republican who lost her challenge to Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat.
“Mr. D’Souza did not act with any corrupt or criminal intent whatsoever,” his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said in a statement. “He and the candidate have been friends since their college days, and at most, this was an act of misguided friendship by D’Souza.”
Prosecutors also charged Mr. D’Souza with causing the unidentified candidate’s campaign to unwittingly file false campaign documents. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan.
It is not clear from the court documents what led investigators to Mr. D’Souza in a fund-raising case involving relatively small donations, in a race that ended in a blowout win for Ms. Gillibrand. Ms. Long raised about $785,000 in the race.
Ms. Long and Mr. D’Souza were students together at Dartmouth College, where they worked on the staff of The Dartmouth Review, a conservative newspaper on campus. In the 2012 race, he was a host for one of Ms. Long’s fund-raisers.
Mr. D’Souza was considered an up-and-coming conservative voice when he arrived in Washington in the 1980s. He worked in President Ronald Reagan’s White House and for the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution, conservative research centers.
Mr. D’Souza has written more than a dozen books, on subjects such as terrorism, American values and Christianity. He has announced plans for a new movie this year, titled “America.”
“We are now living in the America that we warned our fellow citizens could come to pass if President Obama were re-elected,” he wrote on his website.