What did Della Ware?

Yesterday we noted the Obama’s campaign’s acceptance of credit card contributions made via the Internet under false names and addresses in “Who is John Galt?” Many readers wrote to confirm the experiment conducted by our reader under the names John Galt, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Bill Ayers at obviously phony addresses.

At the same time, the contributions of “John Galt” and all the rest were rejected without fail by the McCain campaign. How could this be?

Mark Steyn and many readers (thanks to all) wrote to explain that the Obama campaign has chosen to reject, and the McCain campaign has chosen to adopt, the Address Verification System, or AVS. It is a simple tool that prevents credit card fraud.

As Steyn observed, “the AVS security checks most merchant processors use to screen out fraudulent transactions (and, incidentally, overseas customers) were intentionally disabled by the Obama campaign — and thus their web donation page enables fraudulent (and/or foreign) donations.”

Steyn also reported the contribution of NRO reader “Della Ware” of “12345 No Way.” Steyn later reported that “Ms. Ware’s” contribution was actually withdrawn from her account yesterday.

Campaign contributions under false names are illegal, as are contributions by noncitizens. Federal campaign law also limits the amount any one citizen can contribute to the presidential campaign to $2,300. The acceptance of campaign contributions via credit card without AVS protection facilitates illegal contributions. This is what the Obama campaign has chosen to do, and what the McCain campaign has chosen to avoid.

Steyn elaborated on this point at the end of the day:

[I]n 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.

By this time “Della Ware” had contacted the New York Times to report her experiment. Here, one might think, is a story. At the least, it provides an important sidebar to the heralded Obama online fundraising operation. Yet when Times reporter Michael Luo wrote it up for the Times’s campaign blog, he somehow missed the point. “To be fair to the Obama campaign,” Luo wrote, “officials there have said much of their checking for fraud occurs after the transactions have already occurred. When they find something wrong, they then refund the amount.”

But, to repeat, the Obama campaign has chosen to establish an online contribution system that faciliates illegal anonymous or falsely sourced contributions, illegal foreign contributions and the evasion of contribution limits. Why has it chosen to do so? Why has it not availed itself of the AVS protection that would expose or prevent such illegal contributions? Luo does not grasp the heart of the story.

It is a story, however, and an important one. At least Luo reported it. The rest of the Times and its mainstream media colleagues have averted their eyes or turned their attention elsewhere.

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