Obama Shrugged: Neil Munro is on the case

The only reporter who has provided an unapolgetic take on Barack Obama’s invitation to fraud and illegality in his online fundraising operation is National Journal’s Neil Munro. Munro first reported that the Obama campaign is not using the basic credit card security system last weekend in “FEC rules leave loopholes in online donations data.” Munro now advances the story in “Common Web tools make tracking donors doable.”

Munro blows through the smoke thrown up by the Obama campaign to cover up the story. For example, commenting on Barack Obama’s response to Charlie Gibson’s question about identifying the contributors of small donations — “Look, you know, 3.1 million donors would be a pretty hard thing for us to be able to process” — Munro reports:

There are few technical obstacles to sorting and identifying small-scale donors. Obama’s campaign is using two of the nation’s largest financial companies to process online donations, according to a New York Times story in July. They are, according to the Times, American Express, which processes daily transactions by almost 90 million cardholders worldwide, and Bank of America, which processes 3 million credit card transactions every 16 minutes, according to its 2007 annual report [PDF].

However, a five-minute phone call to Bank of America’s merchant-services department showed how a campaign could sort transactions to identify the credit cards used in donations. The campaign could download transaction data from the bank’s Web site and transfer the file into a database, such as Excel, said the Bank of America employee. “Then highlight all your transactions and click your sort button,” the employee said.

Munro also provides the apt comparison between the McCain and Obama campaigns on this score:

Obama’s fundraising far outpaces that of previous campaigns. He raised $150 million — including $100 million in online donations — in September. McCain’s campaign cannot raise additional money because it accepted $84 million in federal funds after the GOP convention. The campaign now directs would-be donors to other GOP-affiliated sites.

Obama’s September take included money from many small donors, whose names have not been released. The McCain campaign Web site displays the names and home cities of all donors. The McCain database does show some fake names, such as “Jesus II,” and hundreds of small-scale anonymous donors, although campaign officials say they accept online donations only from people who submit an address that matches the billing address for their credit card.

Munro provides a wealth of additional information in a story that should shame the likes of the Washington Post and the New York Times, which have barely dipped their toes into it. Check out Munro’s story along with the Obama Shrugged site that is tracking developments in this important story.

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