Peter Schweizer’s Government Accountability Institute is out with a report today on foreign and fraudulent campaign contributions. It is the most comprehensive treatment of the issue to date. The key findings relate to the Obama campaign:
- The Obama campaign lacks the “industry standard level” of credit card security for donations
- The website Obama.com was purchased by an Obama bundler based in Shanghai, China, with questionable ties to state-run enterprises
- 68% of the traffic to Obama.com is foreign, and the site was linked to a specific donation page on the official BarackObama.com campaign website for ten months
Schweizer also finds that, based on the security measures currently in place, nearly half of Congress is vulnerable to fraudulent and foreign donations. Schweizer provided this statement to Powerline, which covers the report here:
Dubious donations: Peter Schweizer speaks
GAI takes a good-government approach to investigating the issues raised by online donations in general. The report’s findings about the Obama campaign’s modus operandi in particular are nevertheless newsworthy and disturbing. Peter Schweizer has provided us the following statement that concisely highlights the relevant findings and places the focus where it belongs:
When it comes to money in this campaign all the focus has been on SuperPACs. But far more troubling in my mind is the reality of how easily foreign governments or individuals can inject funds in the US presidential campaign. The FEC does not require basic security for Internet donations. And in the case of the Obama campaign the gate appears to be wide open. You need to use the CVV security code on your credit card to buy an Obama hoodie, but not to make a donation. And there is very real evidence that the campaign is not using the address verification system (AVS) in any real way. There are simply too many contributions they accept with either no zip code or an incorrect zip code. To make matters worse, donations under $200 don’t even need to be disclosed. Twenty years ago that might not matter but in the era of robo-donations its a huge problem.
The Illegal Donor Loophole – The Daily Beast
Further complicating the issue are websites like Obama.com—which is owned not by the Obama campaign but by Robert Roche, an American businessman and Obama fundraiser who lives in Shanghai. Roche’s China-based media company, Acorn International, runs infomercials on Chinese state television. Obama.com redirects to a specific donation page on BarackObama.com, the official campaign website. Unlike BarackObama.com, Obama.com’s traffic is 68 percent foreign, according to markosweb.com, a traffic-analysis website. According to France-based web analytics site Mustat.com, Obama.com receives over 2,000 visitors every day.
The name Robert W. Roche appears 11 times in the White House visitors log during the Obama administration. Roche also sits on the Obama administration’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, and is a co-chair of Technology for Obama, a fundraising effort. (In an email exchange, Roche declined to discuss his website, or his support for the Obama reelection effort, referring the inquiries to the Obama campaign team. The Obama campaign, in turn, says it has no control over Roche’s website; it also says only 2 percent of the donations associated with Obama.com come from overseas.)
But it isn’t just foreign donations that are a concern. So are fraudulent donations. In the age of digital contributions, fraudsters can deploy so-called robo-donations, computer programs that use false names to spew hundreds of donations a day in small increments, in order to evade reporting requirements. According to an October 2008 Washington Post article, Mary Biskup of Missouri appeared to give more than $170,000 in small donations to the 2008 Obama campaign. Yet Biskup said she never gave any money to the campaign. Some other contributor gave the donations using her name, without her knowledge. (The Obama campaign explained to the Post that it caught the donations and returned them.)
This makes it all the more surprising that the Obama campaign does not use a standard security tool, the card verification value (CVV) system—the three- or four-digit number often imprinted on the back of a credit card, whose purpose is to verify that the person executing the purchase (or, in this case, donation) physically possesses the card. The Romney campaign, by contrast, does use the CVV—as has almost every other candidate who has run for president in recent years, from Hillary Clinton in 2008 to Ron Paul this year. (The Obama campaign says it doesn’t use the CVV because it can be an inhibiting factor for some small donors.) Interestingly, the Obama campaign’s online store requires the CVV to purchase items like hats or hoodies (the campaign points out that its merchandise vendor requires the tool).
Read more at The Illegal Donor Loophole – The Daily Beast.
- Obama bundler tied to Chinese government? (hotair.com)
- Obama’s crooked campaign cash-o-matic machine revisited (michellemalkin.com)