Has Foreign Money Bolstered Obama?
The emphasis in the emails described by Rodotà on small contributions [contributi minimi] is particularly intriguing. As Timmerman has discussed, election finance law does not require the sources of contributions under $200 to be identified. (The donors must be identified, however, if their aggregate donations exceed this amount.) Based on the financial data available as of late September, some $222.7 million in contributions to the Obama campaign -- or over half the total amount declared at that time -- had come in the form of such "small contributions." The Obama campaign, unlike the McCain campaign, has not released the names of these "small donors."
In the meanwhile, Timmerman has calculated that over $6 million in contributions to the Obama campaign from identified sources were made in non-rounded dollar amounts: such as $223.88, $388.67, and $876.09. This odd anomaly suggests that the dollar amounts were converted from foreign currencies. The donors in question gave a total of over $30 million. Timmerman speculates that roughly the same amount of non-itemized contributions from unidentified donors may have come from foreign sources. Of course, if foreign sources were being specifically targeted for "small" contributions, in order to circumvent the disclosure requirements, this could well be a conservative estimate. Timmerman's calculations, moreover, do not include the Obama campaign's record haul of $150 million in contributions for September, nor, of course, do they include the as yet unavailable figures for October.
(As I have discussed in an earlier article, at least one major foreign contribution to the Obama campaign was made in plain view: namely, the massive in-kind contribution made by the city of Berlin in hosting the candidate's famous speech at Berlin's Victory Column.)
Given months of downright adulation of Obama in so much of the European media -- the mirror image of the preceding years of denigration/demonization of George W. Bush in these same media -- a large part of Obama's foreign contributions will surely have come from Europe.
Maria Laura Rodotà's column is the only example the present author has come across of a European source openly discussing the phenomenon. It would undoubtedly be highly instructive if other Europeans would come forward with their own experiences.