“John Galt” donating to Obama this year too, apparently; Update: RNC files new complaint with FEC; Update: Foreign credit cards being accepted too? Update: Ruffini cries fraud

posted at 12:50 pm on October 23, 2008 by Allahpundit

I’m ripping the content straight from Powerline. Ace actually had the story last night, but it was only a single source; PL claims in an update that other readers have replicated the experiment. Quote:

I went to the Obama campaign website and entered the following:

Name: John Galt
Address: 1957 Ayn Rand Lane
City: Galts Gulch
State: CO
Zip: 99999

Then I checked the box next to $15 and entered my actual credit card number and expiration date (it didn’t ask for the 3-didgit code on the back of the card) and it took me to the next page and… “Your donation has been processed. Thank you for your generous gift.”

This simply should not, and could not, happen in any business or any campaign that is honestly trying to vet it’s donors. Also, I don’t see how this could possibly happen without the collusion of the credit card companies. They simply wouldn’t allow any business to process, potentially, hundreds of millions in credit card transactions where the name on the card doesn’t match the purchasers name.

In short, with the system set up as it is by the Obama camp, an individual could donate unlimited amounts of money by simply making up fake names and addresses. And Obama is doing his best to facilitate this fraud. This is truly scandalous.

The same guy claims to have tried to donate the same way on McCain’s website and had his card rejected. I’m skeptical that The One would be quite this blatant about things, but (a) at the Corner, Mark Steyn notes that the only way to get his own online merchandising vendor to bypass a name check when processing credit card information would be to modify certain security settings, and (b) this wouldn’t be the first time Team Barry’s website had dragged its feet on online donation security measures. From Ken Timmerman’s much-linked piece at Newsmax last month: “Unlike McCain’s or Sen. Hillary Clinton’s online donation pages, the Obama site did not ask for proof of citizenship until just recently. Clinton’s presidential campaign required U.S. citizens living abroad to actually fax a copy of their passport before a donation would be accepted.” Meanwhile, in response to his earlier post on this, Geraghty receives this e-mail from an Obama supporter:

Back in August or September (not sure which) Obama’s site definitely would not take my money because I was entering my school address instead of my permanent (parent’s) one. I remember being slightly annoyed at the time. I just tried it to donate again using my school address and it went through no problem. That’s more than a bit disappointing.

Hopefully, the suspect funds will be returned. Almost 2 million was refunded just last month.

There’s definitely no excuse for this though.

Any readers willing and able to help confirm or debunk? Knowledge of online vending a plus! Also a plus: Tolerance for being called a hater or racist for questioning the security measures of a guy who famously hasn’t released any information about his many, many, many small donors. If you succeed, your reward will be watching the media pounce on this story — to find out who “John Galt” is, so that they can give him a beating Joe-the-Plumber-style.

Update: A reader tells Steyn that his donation as “JarackBoe BOamabiden” was accepted.

Update: Lots more info at Ace’s from readers who are replicating the experiment. Question: Is it possible that the website’s showing a “transaction confirmed” message before the transaction’s actually confirmed, and all these donations are being rejected later?

Update: Reader “Dale in Atlanta” says he tried it with a fake name and the transaction showed up on his credit card immediately — but marked “pending.” We’ll find out later today if it clears.

Update: Just across from the RNC:

The Republican National Committee (RNC) today filed a supplement to its complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the Obama for America campaign addressing its acceptance of foreign national and excessive contributions, donations from unknown sources, and demonstrated lack of oversight or concern for compliance with the law. The complaint demonstrates that the Obama campaign has failed to comply with federal campaign finance law in its fundraising. RNC Chief Counsel Sean Cairncross released the following statement today concerning the supplement to the complaint:

“Based on numerous press accounts that have come to light since our initial filing in early October, it is clear that the Obama for America campaign is operating outside of the law. The complete and total lack of any control mechanisms within the Obama campaign’s fundraising operation has undermined any confidence in their ability to curtail excessive, foreign, and fraudulent contributions and demands immediate attention from the Federal Election Commission (FEC).”

Update: Here’s something a reader sent me, for what it’s worth:

I recently set up credit card processing for my startup company and the way it works is the vender (ie me, or Obama’s campaign) selects whether the info must match what is on the card. If they opt not to they accept the risk of being flagged after too many fradulent charges are reported by them to the credit card companies. Since these people are (presumably) using their actual credit card and just giving a different name to avoid the donation limits I doubt they’ll file complaints about the charges with their card company.

So the only time you would ever do this is if you know your clients really well. The only reason I can think of for Obama’s campaign to do this is to avoid the donations cap. The fact that this isn’t all over the media is truly a shame.

Update: Unbelievable. Suddenly, after multiple blog readers had their phony donations accepted and this story started percolating on right-wing blogs, the security system is magically back in place.

Update: I don’t know what happened to the guy in the last update but Flip says he successfully donated five bucks at 2:05 p.m. with the following info:

Name: Nodda Realperson
Address: 1000 This Is a Bogus Street
City/State: Neighborhood of Makebelieve, CA
Email: [email protected]t.com
Employer: Barack Obama
Occupation: Cow-Eyed Disciple

A friend e-mails to ask if anyone’s tried this with a foreign credit card to see if there’s any difference. Anyone got one?

Update: Commenter “Bombast” says his foreign credit card worked like a charm:

I have a credit card issued by a bank in Hong Kong.

I’ve just made 5 donations of $5 each using the card. I listed fake addresses in North Korea, Iran, Gaza, Venezuela and Kenya. The names and addresses were made up, each was different, I listed real Yahoo email addresses that forward to me.

Fake Name
Not A. Realperson
Finance Violation
Fraudulent Charge
Over Donation Limit

All 5 went through without a problem. I’m already being solicited for more money.

Update: One of Jonah Goldberg’s readers says he tried this at McCain’s website and was rejected.

Update: Patrick Ruffini was Bush’s web guy in 2004 and specializes in online campaign finance, so he knows what he’s talking about here. Verdict: Fraud.

The issue centers around the Address Verification Service (or AVS) that credit card processors use to sniff out phony transactions. I was able to contribute money using an address other than the one on file with my bank account (I used an address I control, just not the one on my account), showing that the Obama campaign deliberately disabled AVS for its online donors…

The end result? “Donors” like “Doodad Pro” can submit tons of donations totaling well above the $2,300 limit using different bogus addresses (this does clarify how donations from “Palestine”, or PA, got through). And the campaign has no way to reliably de-dupe these donations, besides looking at the last four digits of the credit card number, which with 3.1 million donors is an identifier that could be shared by literally hundreds of donors, and is not as easy to eyeball like a common name or address would be. The ability to contribute with a false address, when the technology to prevent it not only exists but comes standard, is a green light for fraud.

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What happened to the comments?

MarkTheGreat on October 24, 2008 at 7:17 AM

That was weird. Apparently when the previous page fills up, but there are no posts for the new page, you get an empty page, without even the “Comment pages: x x x [x]” tags.

MarkTheGreat on October 24, 2008 at 7:19 AM

How about:
– Post-election investigation reveals that the Obama campaign received over $200,000,000.00 from George Soros.

– Investigators conclude that this was a criminal conspiracy to subvert Campaign Finance Law, file charges against President Obama.

-He resigns in shame.


brirodg on October 23, 2008 at 9:38 PM

-Because of all the excitement, Joe Biden bursts another brain vessel, becoming permanently disabled.

-Nancy Pelosi becomes president.

MarkTheGreat on October 24, 2008 at 7:29 AM

-Nancy Pelosi becomes president.

MarkTheGreat on October 24, 2008 at 7:29 AM


loudmouth883 on October 24, 2008 at 7:32 AM

Don’t have time to read all comments so I don’t know if this has been noted. From Steyn, who conducted his own experiment:

If they’d really wanted “to be fair”, the Times would have pointed out that, in order to accept donations from “Della Ware” and “Saddam Hussein” et al, the Obama website had, intentionally, to disable all the default security settings on their credit-card processing. I took a look at the inner sanctum of my (alas, far more modest) online retail operation this afternoon and, in order to permit fraud as easy as that which the Obama campaign is facilitating, you have to uncheck every single box on the AVS system, each one of which makes it very explicit just what you’re doing – ie, accepting transactions with no “billing address”, no “street address” match, no “zip code” match, with a bank “of non-US origin” (I’ve got nothing against those, but a US campaign fundraiser surely should be wary), etc. When you’ve disabled the whole lot one step at a time, then you’ve got a system tailor-made for fake names and bogus addresses.

Also note that ACE reports on commenter who tried this in the local race and (surprise!) the Dem candidate’s website accepted fraudulent info but Republican Coryn’s did not.

P.S. Please people, if you are going to try this in your local races and donate money to the opposition at least donate money to our side too.

Come to think of it, local candidates on our side should be notified of this problem and making an issue of it.

Buy Danish on October 24, 2008 at 8:19 AM

Yeah, kids, don’t look now, but Ace has readers that have caught this guy Noriega in Texas, along with UH-OH! Jumpin JACK MURTHA in PA pulling the same scam.

How many other Dems are doing the same scam?

Might be easier counting the ones that aren’t.

I’m not giving the bastages a single cent, even to check it – but I’d recommend someone with some time and a few spare shekels to start hopping all over Dem sites – I get the feeling this is probably VERY widespread.

Wind Rider on October 24, 2008 at 8:24 AM

Just checked my bank acct this AM, and the (pending) 5.00 donation I made yesterday under false name/address no longer shows up online. I’m not sure if it’s been rejected by something along the chain (obama/visa/wells fargo) or what, but it’s no longer there.


jwehman on October 24, 2008 at 8:29 AM

Just one more…in my “donation” I listed the first name as Idiot and the last name as Savant…now, I get emails from Obama (Barry and Michele both) that start off:

Dear Idiot,

Thank you for your generous donation of $5.00.

Excuse me?!?


jwehman on October 24, 2008 at 8:32 AM


Stop the insanity.

Vote Democrats into the MINORITY.

maverick muse on October 24, 2008 at 8:33 AM

Hear Savage interview Democrat attorney Philip J. Berg, former deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania, about his lawsuit demanding Barack Obama present his original birth certificate to prove he was born in the United States and qualified to serve as president.


maverick muse on October 24, 2008 at 8:39 AM

Who is John Gault?

EconomicNeocon on October 24, 2008 at 8:41 AM

Who is John Galt (condensed)

maverick muse on October 24, 2008 at 8:45 AM

Wind Rider on October 24, 2008 at 8:24 AM

I saw that. I’m going to alert the powers that be in the State of Georgia.

Buy Danish on October 24, 2008 at 9:07 AM

The Life of Lord Byron, by John Galt, 1779-1839 (Scotland)

It is impossible to reflect on the boyhood of Byron without regret. There is not one point in it all which could, otherwise than with pain, have affected a young mind of sensibility. His works bear testimony, that, while his memory retained the impressions of early youth, fresh and unfaded, there was a gloom and shadow upon them, which proved how little they had been really joyous.

Lord Byron was the early Romantic idol, as today Obama is the idol of his supporters’ era. Obama, the straw man conning the personification of a 19th-century genius, represents those aristocratic elitists descended from former generations of Liberals though mutated into contemporary intolerant neo-liberal hordes as the Left.

Ayn Rand takes the early Romantic Scotsman to reincarnate as her own projection of John Galt in Atlas Shrugged.

maverick muse on October 24, 2008 at 9:22 AM

Laura Ingraham just mentioned this piece on Hotair on her radio show!

Oink on October 24, 2008 at 9:31 AM


Okay, I promised Fairness in Reporting.

Yesterday, when this story first broke, I went over to http://www.barakobama.com; and donated $15 using my Visa card, using the name “Heywood JaBlowmee”; totally fictitious address, email, employer, etc.

I did not use screen captures to record the process; I wasn’t clever enough to do that.

The transaction was processed immediately, without an apparant Billing Address verification, nor asking for the 3-digit security code.

I logged into the my Bank Account immediately afterwards, and the transaction was listed as “Pending”.

That is normal for trasactions that happen during the business workday; and I’ve been told by my back, that once a transaction is processed by a Vendor and is in the “pending” stage, there is NO WAY to stop it, the funds are gone.

About 50% of my “pending” transactions, process to the Completed stage by 6am the next morning.

For whatever reason, about 25% of them take 2 – 3 days, and the remainder, sometimes take 4 – 5 days.

I woke up this morning at 6am and checked my Bank Account; the $15 Obama donation, made by “Heywood JaBlowmee” is Still in a “Pending” stage; though technically, those funds are not available to me to use in another transaction; as far as the Bank is concerned, I’ve already spent those funds.

If those funds do not process by 6am tomorrow morning (Saturday); they will, because of the weekend, remain in a “Pending” stage until Tuesday morning, actually.

If they do not process from the “pending” to the “completed stage, by 6am Wednesday morning, the “pending” status will be removed automatically by my Bank, and credited back to me. My Bank only allows Vendors 3 full Banking Days to complete a transaction from the “pending”, which is really placing a “hold” on the funds in question, to actually completing the transaction and taking receipt of the funds.

In this case, the weekend & Monday, will interrupt the 3 full Banking Days; hence next Wednesday is the drop-dead date on this transaction, whether its actually completed or not.

For the record, I gave full disclosure to my Bank, cancelled my Card, got a new one re-issued; but my Bank assured me that regardless of my “sleight of hand”; the onus is squarely on the Vendor/Merchant to provide an Address Check & Verification Code check; the Bank spokesman told me that Visa sets up very specific guidelines for its transactions, and to NOT do an Address & Security Code Verfication check, is a direct violation of those rules.

Dale in Atlanta on October 24, 2008 at 10:48 AM

Why haven’t the banks put a stop to this? Aren’t they on the hook for the fees if it is fraud?

liquidflorian on October 24, 2008 at 11:01 AM

Hello HOTAIR. I just made a contribution to Obama’s campaign. The site is still allowing fraudulent transactions. The only error it throws is if you try to put in $1.

I posed as Osama Bin Laden, Terrorist Leader, Mujhadein, in A CAVE IN WAZIRISTAN KHOST, AR, 12345. email was [email protected].

Think about it, anyone could use stolen credit cards to fund Obama’s campaign. I would highly recommend everyone check they credit card transactions this month to make sure you haven’t given to the big O yet, you won’t know until your statement in November possibly.

James on October 24, 2008 at 5:37 PM

At this point I’m sure the Obama campaign couldn’t care less about these allegations no matter how much proof there is of them.
They are figuring that it’s worth breaking the law now because they know that, if Obama wins, it will be a moot point anyway and any penalty handed out will be worth the end result. What will the courts do….have them return money? pay a fine? They’re certainly not going to overturn the election because of it so what do they really have to lose?

AZ_Mike on October 24, 2008 at 6:21 PM

That was weird. Apparently when the previous page fills up, but there are no posts for the new page, you get an empty page, without even the “Comment pages: x x x [x]” tags.

MarkTheGreat on October 24, 2008 at 7:19 AM

Thanks for the 411, Mark, I noticed that at 3AM & started hearing the Twilight Zone theme song in my head. Good to know.

NightmareOnKStreet on October 24, 2008 at 7:00 PM

Because of recent (and, in my opinion, bad) practices, small transactions (definition varies: $25 or less for most everybody, more for some businesses) can easily sail through the card processing system without validation of any kind.

Small transactions are evaluated for the probability of a “charge-back” by the processor, because “charge-backs” cost the processor money without producing any revenue. Too many “charge-backs” and the Merchant will lose his Merchant Account: but since the Obama campaign is a transient business, the Obamamaniacs probably don’t care. Regardless, the card processor should care because charge-backs can occur a considerable time after the transaction: by law, the cardholder has at least 30 days after they receive their credit card statement to dispute the charge and have the money refunded: this could easily be 60 days after the transaction. A credit card processor could potentially be “stuck” with these charges if there were insufficient funds in the Obama campaign account to refund the money. Normally, a financial institution functioning as a credit card processor will require a sequestration of funds in the Merchant Account and/or delay deposits to the Merchant Account in order to reduce the card processor’s risk to an acceptable level. Typically, card processor’s rules are more strict and fees are higher when donations are involved, because there is a much greater risk of “charge-backs” than for normal goods/services transactions.

There IS a computer system which could be used to audit Obama’s on-line contributions: it is the one maintained by the Card Processor. If Obama is using more than one card processor, then two or more databases need to be combined to get the whole picture. If the card processor “accidentally loses” the data, then VISA/MC has the database which can tie transactions from the card processor to bank account databases all over the country…or the world in order to reconstruct the original database. So the data is there, it’s all a matter of how much time, money, and legal fees someone is willing to spend getting it.

The FEC (or the RNC if the FEC drags its feet) should immediately obtain a subpoena for the database(s) maintained by the Card Processor(s), along with an injunction to prevent alteration of the database(s). As a backup, the database(s) could be reconstructed from the larger database(s) maintained by VISA/MC which must be preserved for at least a year in order to actually transfer funds, and potentially reverse some transactions. Depending upon the circumstances, the Federal Reserve could potentially be involved also, as it issues the regulations (Primarily via Regulation E) which govern electronic transfer of funds. There will have to be a lawsuit, because privacy laws are involved and the release of this information needs to be limited to a very few recipients under strict supervision.

I am the author of my company’s shopping cart and interface to a large bank consortium which does the credit card processing for us in either batch or real-time (our choice). Our company also writes custom software to transfer data to the ACH (Automatic Clearing House – aka wire transfer) system.

landlines on October 24, 2008 at 9:30 PM

The reason for Obama’s European tour? Donations from overseas. This is where the millions are coming from, and why he won’t disclose the list of “$200 or less” donors. The man and his cohorts are, without a doubt, the most incorrigible, blatantly dishonest, and corrupt group in history.

hopefloats on October 25, 2008 at 9:41 AM