Washington Post reporter Matthew Mosk returned to the subject of Barack Obama’s online campaign fundraising yesterday in “Obama campaign using untraceable donations.” The story was published on page 2. Mosk reported at the top of the story:
Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor’s identity, campaign officials confirmed.
Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.
The Obama organization said its extensive review has ensured that the campaign has refunded any improper contributions, and noted that Federal Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of donations.
In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for Obama’s accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro. Those revelations prompted conservative bloggers to further test Obama’s finance vetting by giving money using the kind of prepaid cards that can be bought at a drugstore and cannot be traced to a donor.
Mosk is to be congratulated on getting somewhere in the vicinity of the heart of the story after his stab at it this past Sunday. The story is an improvement over his unbelievably obtuse page-one story “Campaign finance gets new scrutiny”.
Yet Mosk’s current story yesterday is still lacking. It fails to observe that the McCain campaign’s online donation screen contributors through the use of the basic Address Verification System. On the contary, it creates the false impression that the McCain campaign is party to the same modus operandi.
Moreover, despite the implication of the Obama campaign’s statement that it provides “extensive review” to donations received online, Mosk fails to note that Obama contributors using a valid credit card but a fictitious name and address cannot be effectively screened once they have been accepted. That’s why the McCain campaign is using AVS security and the Obama campaign is not, but Mosk’s story blurs the difference between the campaigns.
Mosk’s regurgitation of the statement that the Obama campaign “has ensured that [it] has refunded any improper contributions” is ludicrous. We know, for example, that “John Galt,” “Osama bin Laden,” “Bill Ayers,” “Saddam Hussein,” “Della Ware,” and “Adolfe Hitler,” among many others, are still waiting for their refunds. Again, one wonders if Mosk means to be obtuse.
Mosk also relates the Obama campaign’s comment “that Federal Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of donations.” But failing to screen donors at the front end coincidentally facilitates the violation of basic federal campaign finance law. Federal campaign finance law requires donors contributing over $200 to be identified, limits donations to a total of $2,300 and prohibits foreigners from contributing.
The Obama campaign’s intentional disabling of basic AVS credit card security knowingly facilitates criminal fraud and illegal contributions. Is this too difficult a concept to grasp? John Ronning, for example, provides a step-by-step set of instructions for foreigners seeking to contribute to the Obama campaign.
One might think this story is something of a scandal, but Mosk doesn’t get it. He sees no causal connection between the Obama campaign’s deliberate disabling of AVS credit card security “with a with a huge influx of donations over the Internet[.]” With two-thirds of Obama’s $150 million September haul having come over the Internet, you’d think it might dawn on a dogged reporter that the end might have something to do with the means.
Mosk might have asked the Obama campaign why it has chosen to continue in this manner knowing it is accepting contributions that violate federal law. Yesterday, for example, Crazy Eight from Swindler Lane made a $25 dollar donation to the Obama campaign. “It went right through to my credit card after a two-day delay,” writes Mr. Eight: “No security code. No address check. No name verification. Nothing. Unbelievable.”
Mr. Eight was in good company yesterday. He was joined by “Karl Marx.” Our man “John Galt” writes with questions and comments that seem to have eluded Matthew Mosk:
Given the bad PR and the additional cost for all their CC transactions, why is the AVS still turned off? This story first broke in the blogs in a big way last Wednesday, and the MSM starting asking the Obama campaign about it by the end of the week.
So the Obama campaign surely knows the basic facts of the story and its potential liability — that they don’t have even the most basic security measures initiated at their website. Just to cover their butts, don’t you think they would have turned those features back on? So they can claim, “Yes, we discovered the issue and have rectified it several days ago…blah, blah, blah…”?
So, I tested the system, yet again, this morning with the same credit card – this time with Karl Marx as the donor – and sure enough, it went through.
But why? Why would they continue to expose themselves to this potential scandal? My bet is (in spite of their claims that it’s too difficult to make the info available) they know down to the penny the exact details of all their under $200 donors and the serial-CC-fraudsters and the simply can’t afford to give up the money. Also, as reported here, it’s actually costing them more per transaction to process all their online donations. Even the ones that aren’t fraudulent.
So they know this is a PR issue, and it’s more expensive on a per transaction basis, yet the AVS remains disabled. I can only conclude that they know this is such a significant percentage of their overall revenue that in spite of the publicity they have to continue to allow the fraud in order to meet their budget goals. They must know just how many of those small donations are coming from fraudulent sources, and if they turn the security on it could drastically impact those $150 million donation months.
If they did publicly announce that they restored the security features and a big drop in the fundraising figures ensued, it would only confirm all the fraud up to that point. Meaning, if the fundraising reports were to show a big drop in CC transactions after they turned the AVS back on, it would be evidence of the crime.
The sophisticated gentlemen running the Obama campaign know exactly what they are doing. “John Galt” has caught on. Matthew Mosk doesn’t quite get it, but at least he’s making a show of trying. It’s more than can be said of his illustrious colleagues in the MSM.
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