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The PJ Tatler

by
Mike McNally

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October 25, 2012 - 12:18 pm

Earlier today I reported at PJ Media on how I was able to make donations to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, despite being a British citizen. PJ Media is still waiting for a response from the Obama campaign, but we’re not holding our breath. We’ve also been in touch with the Federal Election Commission and the Government Accountability Institute.

Last night I telephoned the Obama campaign’s donation compliance department. The staffer I spoke to said she would refund my donations, but was unable to explain why they had been processed. She hung up on me when I asked to speak with someone who was authorized to talk to the press. I spoke to a second staffer at Obama HQ in Chicago, who was more helpful. She took my details, and said someone from the press department would phone me back, but they’ve yet to do so.

I’ve also sent emails to the compliance department and the campaign’s press office asking them to comment on my report, and to explain why they continue to accept donations from non-U.S. citizens – and specifically, why they don’t require donors to supply the CVV (card verification value) number for their payment card.

I also contacted the Federal Election Commission. A spokesperson told me that campaigns are only required by law to file with the commission details of individuals contributing more than $200. And they are only required to make “best efforts” to verify the mailing address of those donors; so it’s hard to see how FEC analysts would be able to detect a contribution of, say, $500 from a foreign citizen if they simply supplied a false U.S. address, as I did. Campaigns are required to keep details of individuals contributing lower amounts on file.

The spokesperson could not comment on any investigations currently in progress, saying details would be confidential. She told me that if I wanted to file a complaint, I could do so through the FEC’s normal filing procedure.

It’s clear that the Obama campaign is exploiting cracks in a system that is not set up to detect multiple small-scale breaches of the law, despite that fact that numerous small donations could quickly add up to a substantial sum of money. There appears to be no mechanism for reporting, or for the FEC to investigate, such irregularities.

The current FEC regulations appear to be outdated, in that they haven’t kept pace with the increasing ease with which money can be transferred across international borders electronically. That in itself wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but the aggravating factor here is that Obama is arguably the first “global” political figure, in that he inspires as much devotion in idealistic leftists and naïve young people in foreign countries as he does in a volunteer in Chicago.

If Obama’s legions of foreign admirers found that they could easily donate to his campaigns, why wouldn’t they do so? Looking back to four years ago – when his campaign was also accused of accepting foreign donations – Obama’s Berlin speech now begins to look like the first global fundraiser conducted by an American president, with the aim of soliciting donations from non-U.S. citizens.

The obvious remedy would be for the FEC to order all campaigns to require potential donors to supply the CVV number for their card, but as there’s currently no requirement for them to do this, such a move would presumably require a change in the law. And that would come too late to stop the Obama campaign collecting perhaps millions of dollars in illegal contributions, and spending it in their increasingly desperate bid to hold onto the White House.

On Friday, I’m due to speak with representatives of the GAI, who’ve been looking into the issue of illegal foreign campaign contributions for some time (their detailed report on the problem is here). Hopefully, PJ Media’s reporting will be able to help them in their efforts to put an end to this scandal.

Read part one of Mike McNally’s report on the Obama campaign’s illegal foreign donations here.

Mike McNally is a journalist based in Bath, England. He posts at PJ Tatler and at his own blog Monkey Tennis, and tweets at @notoserfdom. When he's not writing about politics he writes about Photoshop.
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