Much has been made about the near “miraculous” fundraising totals that Obama has pulled in throughout the campaign. However, about a week ago, some major media outlets started seeing just who it was that donating to the Senator’s campaign. What they found was as disturbing as it was interesting. From the Washington Post:
The Republican National Committee wants the Federal Election Commission to investigate the source of thousands of small contributions to the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, a committee lawyer said yesterday.
The RNC’s chief counsel, Sean Cairncross, said that there is mounting evidence that the Obama campaign was so hungry for donations it “looked the other way” as contributions piled up from suspicious donors, and possibly even from overseas, which would be illegal.
“We believe that the American people should know first and foremost if foreign money is pouring into a presidential election,” Cairncross said.
He pointed to a report in the current issue of Newsweek magazine that documents a handful of instances in which donors made repeated small contributions using fake names, such as “Good Will” and “Doodad Pro.” FEC auditors told the campaign that Good Will gave a total of more than $11,000 and Doodad Pro $17,130 — far above the maximum allowable individual contribution of $2,300.
Newsweek also reported that earlier this year, two Palestinian brothers in the Gaza Strip paid $33,000 for a bulk order of T-shirts from the campaign’s online store. (Those purchases count as contributions.) The brothers had listed their address as “Ga.,” which the campaign took to mean Georgia rather than Gaza. The campaign later returned the money.
The donations included thousands of dollars in excess donations, made in increments of $25, from someone named Good Will in Austin, Tex., who listed his employer as “Loving” and his occupation as “You.” It also cited another donor named Doodad Pro, from “Nunda, N.Y.,” with the same employer and occupation.
Both donors were flagged by the commission in warning letters sent to the Obama campaign by August. The campaign was supposed to have responded within 30 days. But its campaign finance filing in September showed it had failed to refund more than $10,000 in donations from each, although Obama officials say all of the money has now been returned. A campaign has 60 days from when it receives an excess contribution to address it.
Republican officials asserted that if the Obama campaign had missed such obviously questionable itemized contributions, there could be much more in the form of fraudulent donations in the amounts below $200 that do not have to be reported.
The Democratic candidate’s donors also include “Derty Poiiuy,” an individual with a scatological sense of humor who has given $950. “Mong Kong” has contributed $1,065 and lists an address in a nonexistent city. “Fornari USA” gave $800 and listed the address of an apparel store of that name near San Francisco.
The Republican National Committee filed a federal complaint this week, alleging that some of Obama’s small donations are illegal because they come from foreign nationals or exceed the limit.
Obama’s contributions have also exposed a loophole in the law, which does not require disclosure of the identities of donors who give $200 or less, making it impossible to determine whether they are legitimate without a federal audit.
Lawrence Norton, a former Federal Election Commission general counsel, noted that the law was written when “no one conceived that a candidate could raise millions” in such small amounts. “It certainly is a case where the 1970s law is not in step with current campaign fundraising practices,” he said.
Exactly why a donor would use a name like Derty Poiiuy is not clear. “It’s part of phenomenon that we’ve never seen before,” FEC spokesman Bob Biersack said. People who make up names when donating to federal candidates violate laws against making false statements, but Biersack could not recall anyone being prosecuted for such a crime.
Biersack said the FEC cannot conduct an audit unless there are significant questions about a candidate’s fundraising. “Odd names by themselves aren’t enough. A lot of people have odd names,” Biersack said. “I have certain sympathy for that.”
The number of fake names attached to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign contributions continues to inch up as news outlets and political researchers page through thousands of pages of donor listings.
Turns out, they’re not that hard to come by. New discoveries from a cursory review of the listings include Edrty Eddty, who donated $250 in July 2008 and Es Esh, who gave $325 in July. Esh hailed from this unusual address: “fhdfhdfh, Erial, NJ 08081” Eddty listed his, or perhaps her, employer as “Poiuyttrrewe / Qwertyuio” — the letters, more or less in order, found on the top line of standard computer keyboards.
The AP contacted 123 of those donors — in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland — and interviewed them about their citizenship and donations. The review found that Obama’s campaign accepted contributions from at least three foreigners.
Last December, someone using the name “Test Person,” from “Some Place, UT,” made a series of contributions, the largest being $764, to Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign totaling $2,410.07.
Someone identifying himself as “Jockim Alberton,” from 1581 Leroy Avenue in Wilmington, Del., began giving to Mr. Obama last November, contributing $10 and $25 at a time for a total of $445 through the end of February.
The only problem? There is no Leroy Avenue in Wilmington. And Jockim Alberton, who listed his employer and occupation as “Fdsa Fdsa,” does not show up in a search of public records.
An analysis of campaign finance records by The New York Times this week found nearly 3,000 donations to Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, from more than a dozen people with apparently fictitious donor information. The contributions represent a tiny fraction of the record $450 million Mr. Obama has raised. But the questionable donations — some donors were listed simply with gibberish for their names — raise concerns about whether the Obama campaign is adequately vetting its unprecedented flood of donors.
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