Dubious donations: Peter Schweizer responds

I called Peter Schweizer to get his comments on each of the five substantive points with which Obama For America has responded to the Government Accountability Institute report released earlier this week. Below are each of the Obama campaign’s substantive points (in italics) with Peter’s response following, based on my notes.

1. All credit card contributions are processed using AN Address Verification System (AVS) to ensure their legitimacy.

Peter responds: The AVS they are using is set on a scale between 1-12, extremely loose to extremely tight. The problem is this: the undeniable evidence of the FEC reports is that their AVS setting is extremely loose. Many obviously fraudulent donations get through their AVS screen.

2. OFA invests significant resources into a manual process to review any transaction that’s been flagged by the campaign’s credit card processor’s fraud detection services.

Peter responds: The Obama campaign accepts transactions that are flagged as problematic by the AVS system set at whatever level it is employed by OFA. The flagged transactions are then subject to review. This is inherently problematic.

We are being told to trust fundraisers and political consultants to police themselves. That is is ridiculous. They have very little incentive for compliance and all sorts of incentives to accept money and look the other way. As we see in the FEC reports, the campaign’s manual review is not very effective if preventing fraud is the purpose of the manual review.

The emphasis on the back-end review contrasts with the Romney campaign’s use of AVS screens contributions from donors whose address does not match the information provided.

3. Though not required by law, OFA requires a copy of a valid passport from any contributor who has been affirmed as eligible but donates with a mailing address outside the U.S. If they do not offer in one in a timely manner, the donation is returned.

Peter responds: This might screen contributions from an innocent foreign donor who provides accurate information. It will not prevent fraudulent donations from motivated foreigners who supply a fictitious address. The campaign’s failure to use an effective AVS screen is critical here.

4. OFA screens all online credit card contributions that originate from a foreign IP address and, if any questions arise regarding the contributor’s U.S. citizenship, the campaign requests proof of a current and valid U.S. passport in order to be in compliance with the FEC’s safe harbor guidelines.

Peter responds: This is a laughable response from a campaign that is so tech savvy. If you have have foreign actors who want to make contributions it is easy to buy IP addresses online, including IP addresses that look like they originate in the United States.

5. OFA has strong and rigorous safeguards in place to ensure our donors are eligible and that our fundraising efforts comply with all U.S. laws and regulations. While no campaign can control who visits their websites, OFA is in no way directing solicitations to foreign nationals nor knowingly seeking foreign contributions—that is the legal standard.

Peter responds: This is an absurd statement. The Obama campaign is making no effort to screen people who sign up on their Web site. Those who sign up receive solicitations for contributions. Having employed a system that will harvest many foreign contacts, the Obama campaign is sending financial solicitations to the many foreigners who are ineligible to contribute. See our report. We cite numerous examples of foreign solicitation through the system that the Obama campaign has established.

My comment: There is a reason that the Obama campaign prefers not to take questions on these issues from anyone who knows what he is talking about and is in a position to ask appropriate follow-up questions. There is also a reason why the campaign’s responses are so misleading.

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