NEW YORK—A Republican candidate told government investigators that a conservative scholar and author lied to her about the source of donations made to her U.S. Senate campaign, a prosecutor disclosed at an arraignment Friday.

The candidate, Wendy Long, made the statement to investigators as they were building a case against Dinesh D'Souza, the pundit who made the documentary "2016: Obama's America," Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Cohen said. Long lost to Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand in last year's election in New York.

The prosecutor said that D'Souza was indicted after he directed an individual who worked for him and another person who lived with him to each make $10,000 in donations to Long's campaign with the understanding that he would reimburse them for their contributions, which he did soon afterward.

Cohen made the disclosures as D'Souza, 52, of San Diego, pleaded not guilty to charges that he violated campaign finance laws. He was released on $500,000 bond and his travel was restricted to the United States.

His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman there was not much dispute about what happened.

"I think there's a dispute over how it happened and whether what happened violated federal law," Brafman said.

He said he had been in discussions with the government for some time before his client was indicted and had hoped to convince prosecutors that criminal charges were inappropriate.

Outside court, Brafman said there was no corrupt intent, a necessary component of the law, in his client's actions, and he said the $20,000 in donations fell short of the $25,000 required to bring a criminal case. He said it was a situation that was normally resolved with a fine rather than criminal charges.

He said there was no request by D'Souza that Long do anything, and the Senate candidate had no knowledge that campaign finance rules had been violated. Brafman said D'Souza and Long had been friends since college and "at worst, this was an act of misguided friendship by D'Souza."

D'Souza is a former policy analyst under President Ronald Reagan. "2016: Obama's America" was condemned by critics before it became one of the most successful political documentaries ever released, grossing more than $32 million.

In October 2012, D'Souza resigned as head of an evangelical college after becoming engaged to a woman while still married to his wife.