WaPo notices the contribution fraud at Team Obama, but misses the real question
posted at 1:15 pm on October 26, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
The Washington Post takes a front-page look at the shenanigans in Team Obama’s Internet fundraising efforts, but they don’t quite connect all the dots. Matthew Mosk outlines the problem well, but neglects to mention an important point:
Concerns about anonymous donations seeping into the campaign began to surface last month, mainly on conservative blogs. Some bloggers described their own attempts to display the flaws in Obama’s fundraising program, donating under such obviously phony names as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and reported that the credit card transactions were permitted.
Obama officials said it should be obvious that it is as much in their campaign’s interest as it is in the public’s interest for fake contributions to be turned back, and said they have taken pains to establish a barrier to prevent them. Over the course of the campaign, they said, a number of additional safeguards have been added to bulk up the security of their system.
In a paper outlining those safeguards, provided to The Washington Post, the campaign said it runs twice-daily sweeps of new donations, looking for irregularities. Flagged contributions are manually reviewed by a team of lawyers, then cleared or refunded. Reports of misused credit cards lead to immediate refunds. …
Under current law, there is also very little policing of small-dollar contributions. The false donations uncovered by news outlets or by rival campaigns have all involved more than $200, because those contributions must be disclosed in published reports. The campaigns are not required to share any information about donors who give less than $200. And they are not required to even keep records of donors who give less than $50 — they can even give cash.
Mosk never thinks to ask the one question that has already occurred to conservative bloggers. What makes the Obama campaign different from online retail operations? After all, we have spent almost 15 years buying and selling products and services on the Internet, and retailers know how to protect themselves and their customers. They employ a system that compares the billing information on the order to the information in the credit-card system — and when they don’t match, the sale gets denied. Credit-card companies have gone an extra step in recent years by adding a security code to protect against fraudulent use.
The McCain campaign apparently uses these systems to prevent fraud. Why doesn’t Team Obama? That’s the pertinent question. Systems have existed for years to prevent exactly the kind of fraud that has occurred in Obama’s fundraising. Why did Team Obama deliberately avoid using them?
Perhaps the FEC could discover the answer to that question, if they were inclined to do their jobs. It seems very clear that someone at Team Obama didn’t want to stop credit-card fraud as long as it helped them raise funds. That’s a story that the Tanning Bed Media ought to cover … and probably won’t.