Obama campaign accepting dubious contributions?

The title of the article at the New York Post is fairly provacative to be sure. “Obama campaign accepted foreign web donation – and may be hiding more.” But this looks like one of those stories that may be less – and yet more – than it appears on the surface. First, to the details.

The Obama re-election campaign has accepted at least one foreign donation in violation of the law — and does nothing to check on the provenance of millions of dollars in other contributions, a watchdog group alleges.

Chris Walker, a British citizen who lives outside London, told The Post he was able to make two $5 donations to President Obama’s campaign this month through its Web site while a similar attempt to give Mitt Romney cash was rejected. It is illegal to knowingly solicit or accept money from foreign citizens.

Well, that certainly sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Obama taking donations from England? But if you read on there’s a bit more to this specific donation.

Walker said he used his actual street address in England but entered Arkansas as his state with the Schenectady, NY, ZIP code of 12345.

“When I did Romney’s, the payment got rejected on the grounds that the address on the card did not match the address that I entered,” he said. “Romney’s Web site wanted the code from the back of card. Barack Obama’s didn’t.”

So in this case, it turns out that Mr. Walker was intentionally entering distorted information with his donation, mixing an American looking address with an American (not matching) zip code, though the payment was coming from Europe. He was apparently doing it as a “test”of both campaigns – a test which Romney passed – but that’s hardly the same as accepting European donations with open arms. But what it does do is call to light an equally serious problem with the Obama campaign’s system of processing payments. It’s an important distinction which any professional campaign should have been able to sew up and avoid running afoul of the law. The Daily Caller explains.

The upcoming GAI report suggests the Obama campaign is allowing fraudulent donations to be accepted because the president isn’t employing proper safeguards against fraudulent donations. GAI leaves open the possibility that the Obama campaign “may have experienced data-collection problems,” but argued “given the Obama campaign’s technological sophistication, the fact that the campaign consistently reports higher amounts of erroneous data month-to-month casts doubt on that explanation.”

“A robust anti-fraud address verification system (AVS) would require an accurate zip code to process a credit card transaction,” the report reads. “The presence of large sums of donations without such basic address information suggests that some campaigns are using looser security settings than others.”

GAI said an AVS system “compares the numerical portion of the address a donor enters to the numerical information on file with the credit card company for the card.”

“For example, most pay-at-the-pump gas stations require customers to enter their zip code,” GAI added. “Enter the wrong zip code or none at all, the transaction is denied.”

GAI said that when a political campaign uses such an AVS system, it’s “invisible to outsiders.”

So it’s easy to lose sight of the story if you’re only looking to see if Team Obama is intentionally soliciting illegal donations from outside of the country. (And some of the President’s defenders are doing just that.) But given the fact that questions have already come up regarding the President’s team’s handling of such contributions, it’s completely valid to ask why this hasn’t been fixed by now. And perhaps more to the point, it’s not as if Obama has been hurting for small donors this year. Why wouldn’t you take the time to make sure you’re following the rules? An extra $200 bucks can not be worth the problems which will come from an illegal campaign contribution scandal.

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