There are certain issues that President Obama has consistently hammered on during his first four years in the White House. You can almost always count on him to beat the “the rich need to pay their fair share” drum at his campaign stops, or in his news conferences. Wait, never mind about the news conferences. He doesn’t hold those any more. Anyway, he has reminded us of the obligation the rich have to pay their fair share more than a few times. He has also lamented the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, going so far as to blast Justices who handed down that ruling, while he had them captive at one of his State of the Union speeches. One of the reasons Obama seems to hate that ruling so much, at least according to him, is his fear that foreign money will find its way into our political campaigns and thus, influence our politicians and the decisions they make.
It seems he may have been a bit prophetic in that regard, except for one small detail. Although it has nothing to do with Citizens United, it seems clear some campaigns do receive donations from foreign sources. Because of the lack of certain security measures that would prevent that from happening, campaigns on both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of allowing foreign donations into their coffers. Among them is the reelection campaign of Barack Obama himself. As you will learn from reading the article I am linking to, this isn’t the first time Obama has been guilty of allowing an open door for campaign donations coming from foreign sources.
(Human Events) Credit cards include a security code, usually three digits in length, known as the Card Verification Value (CVV) code. If you’ve purchased anything online, you have almost certainly used this code – it’s the “number on the back of the card.” These codes are regarded as a fairly effective anti-fraud measure, and are very widely used in electronic commerce – about 90 percent of online retail transactions require the buyer to enter their CVV code, and most charity organizations require it for credit card donations received by telephone or Internet.
The GAI discovered that 47.3 percent of congressional donation sites do not use the CVV code, or the other widespread security practice of checking the address provided by donors with the address on their credit card billing account. It’s a problem with bipartisan dimensions, with one high-profile GOP example of unverified donations being the 2010 campaign website of Florida senator Marco Rubio. (Rubio’s website has since implemented CVV verification for campaign donations.)
What makes this security lapse troubling is that it opens the door for illegal foreign campaign donations, made via credit card. The absence of CVV and address verification protocols does not automatically prove the existence of a problem with such foreign donations, but it creates the potential for mischief, particularly when there is a great deal of foreign interest in a particular campaign. Most campaign videos include a Web address for making donations – that’s one of the big reasons for distributing such videos. When they receive wide distribution overseas, foreign donors flock to websites that don’t use verification systems to screen out illegal donations.
There is also the danger of automated systems making a high number of small individual “robo-donations” to pump big money into a campaign, in defiance of campaign finance regulations. A system cranking out a tidal wave of donations of less than $50 apiece can largely escape scrutiny.
These verification systems are so widely used that their omission seems curious, to put it mildly. This is particularly true in the case of Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Questions were raised about the possibility of illegal foreign donations in Obama’s 2008 race, so it strains credulity to think his 2012 campaign operation was unaware of the problem. (While the media paid very little attention to the story, it became unofficially known as the “Doodad Pro” scandal to conservative bloggers, after one of the crazy fake names invented by Obama’s tsunami of suspicious small donors. “Doodad Pro” ended up making something like 800 individual donations to the Obama campaign.)
This is indeed, the smoke of a fire that needs to be further investigated. If there is nothing of questionable integrity to be found, then so be it, but where there is smoke, there is almost always a fire. But wait, there is more. Not only has the Obama campaign opened its website up to the possibility of foreign donations, there is also the question of where the Internet traffic that finds its way to the Obama campaign website is coming from.
I am sure many of us are familiar with the term “redirection”. I could, for instance, purchase the domain politicalrealities.com and have it redirected to ldjackson.net, or vice versa. Shall we take a look at how that is working out for the Obama campaign?
The other suspicious element of the Obama campaign finance picture is the existence of foreign “redirection sites” that route Internet traffic to Obama’s unsecured donation page. One such site, Obama.com, has been “purchased by an Obama bundler in Shanghai, China with questionable business ties to state-run Chinese enterprises,” according to the GAI report. Fully 68 percent of the traffic to Obama.com is of foreign origin.
An entire section of the full GAI report is dedicated to unraveling the mystery of this redirection site. “The fact that Obama.com is not owned or managed by the Obama campaign is a mystery,” muses the GAI. “Obama for America owns 392 different domain names bearing either the President’s name or the name of campaign initiatives. It seems logical that Obama.com would be sought after by the campaign.”
But instead, it found its way into the hands of Robert Roche, an Illinois native who lives in Shanghai, and has developed strong commercial ties with the Communist Chinese government. He still gets back to the United States often enough to have made nineteen visits to the White House since 2009, including a personal meeting with the President, and several meetings with the White House Chief of Staff. When Chinese president Hu Jintao was honored with a White House dinner, Roche got to sit at the table with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Senator and onetime Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry, and former President Jimmy Carter. The only other business executives sitting at the same table were General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, and Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent.
It’s not clear if Roche still controls Obama.com, since he sold the domain to anonymous buyers in 2010. But there’s no mistaking the web of foreign links leading overseas visitors to Obama.com… and from there to Barack Obama’s unverified campaign contributions page, where donations can be made without the security that the very same web site applies to the purchase of coffee mugs. The GAI relays numerous accounts of foreign nationals receiving fundraising letters from the Obama campaign. Sometimes they repost the letters, complete with links pointing to that wide-open donation page, on their own blogs.
According to campaign finance reports, the Obama campaign reported a record intake of $181 million in September alone. They have even went so far as to brag about how many of the donations that made up that amount were small and hard to track. While this is not proof that the Obama campaign is actually accepting campaign donations from foreign sources, it does raise a lot of questions. The first one I would ask is why they take the security of their campaign fundraising less seriously than does websites such as Amazon or eBay? Coming from a President who claimed his administration would be the most transparent presidency in modern history, this seems more like a slap in the face to the American people than anything else.
Sadly, this story may never see the light of day in the mainstream media. A quick perusing of the websites of the major media outlets, including Fox News, found nary a word about this story. Were this any other President besides Barack Obama, I believe it is safe to say this would be the top story in the news. Instead, it is left to bloggers to tell the story and ask the questions the reporters seem hesitant to ask.
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