Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Is the Obama Campaign Illegally Soliciting and Accepting Foreign Money? The Evidence in a Nutshell

Most of these facts are from a report by the Government Accountability Institute (see link at the end of this blog). While the AGI is a right leaning organization, it’s report covers most, if not all, federally elected officials. It is critical of more than one Republican and is very much a fact-based document. I invite you to download and read it.

Fact One: It is illegal to accept contributions from foreign nationals

* Federal law prohibits ”a foreign national, directly or indirectly,” from making “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value … in connection with a Federal, State, or local election.

* The same section of law makes it a federal crime to “solicit, accept, or receive” such campaign contributions.

Fact Two: There is a highly sophisticated effort to channel foreign nationals to President Obama’s donation page.


* 68 percent of the traffic to the Obama.com web domain comes from outside the US. The domain is set to "seamlessly redirect" users to the America for Obama donation page.

* The Obama.com domain is owned by Robert Roche (as of the last public listing), an Obama supporter living Shanghai, China. He has close business ties to the Chinese government.


* About 20 percent of visitors to the “my.barackobama.com” social media website “originated from foreign locations,”

* While a major, if not the primary, purpose of this site is to raise money for the Obama reelection, “At no point during the [website's] subscription process is a visitor asked whether he or she can legally donate to a U.S. election".

* “Once a visitor signs up, he or she immediately begins receiving solicitations for donations.

Other Efforts:

* Numerous foreign nationals report receiving solicitation letters and thank you emails from the campaign for their support.

* The GAI report documents scores of foreign social media sites, blogs and even a few foreign government sites that link to Obama for America's donation page.

* GAI cites examples of foreign bloggers posting fundraising-request emails from the Obama campaign. They specifically urge contributions below $190.00 US. Donations above $200.00 must be reported to US election officials.

While these efforts may not have been conducted or even coordinated in any way with the Obama campaign, it is inconceivable that the campaign is not aware of them.

Fact Three: Obama for America (his official campaign site) lacks even the most basic safeguards against receiving contributions from foreign nationals.

* Obama for America does not require online credit card donors to input Card Verification Value data to confirm that a political donor is legally authorized to charge contributions to a given credit card. While all US banks are CVV compliant, many overseas banks are not. Simply requiring CCV to be imputed would block many illegal contributions.

* The Obama campaign does require CCV data from credit card purchasers of hats, t-shirts and other campaign merchandise.

* The Obama campaign’s failure to use such security measures in its online donation system costs it “millions of dollars in additional fees”. (At least $7.25 million. Transactions without CCV data are charged a much higher rate because they are many times more likely to be fraudulent.) Why would they sacrifice this money, unless it somehow benefited the campaign?

* GAI also determined that the Obama re-election campaign has selected a particularly weak Address Verification System. (A system to compare the address entered into the webpage with the name and address on file with the issue bank.) Again, even a moderately strong system would catch foreign contributions. In addition, a weak system allows US contributors to illegally remain anonymous (and perhaps give in excess of legal limits) by purchasing “gift cards” and using them to contribute under false identities.

* It would be extremely easy to Obama for America to detect the visitor's location by their Internet (IP) address. Those connecting from foreign countries could than at least be warned that foreign nationals are forbidden to contribute. Even better, they could require a military ID number or passport number to prove that the contributor is a US Citizen. Needless to say, Obama for America has not done this.

In response to the report, Obama for America has stated that they used “the most sophisticated methods” to prevent fraudulent donations. There is only one problem with that statement: Computer professionals know what those are (as well as most online shoppers!). They are not in place on the Obama for America donation page. Given that they knew, or should have known, that there was an organized effort to drive contributors to that page it seem obvious that they simply do not care what the law is – they want the money no matter what the source.

Additional sources:

The Daily Caller: Claim: Obama campaign illegally solicited foreign donors via social media website

Washington Examiner: Report: Obama.com solicits foreign contributions for prez

Fox News: Study cites security flaws in Obama online donation system

Government Accountability Institute - The Truth About Digital Donations

Direct link to report in PDF

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