Obama campaign ‘may have violated federal election law by allowing foreign donors to funnel in cash via its website’: 68 percent foreign traffic (site was was bought by an Obama bundler in Shanghai, China)

By Toby Harnden In Washington

PUBLISHED:17:00 EST, 8  October 2012| UPDATED:17:29 EST, 8 October 2012

A new report on foreign influences in  American elections by the conservative Government Accountability Institute (GAI)  has raised questions over whether the Obama campaign has violated federal  election law by allowing foreign credit card transactions on its  website.

In a 109-page report entitled ‘America  the Vulnerable: Are Foreign and Fraudulent Online Campaign Contributions  Influencing U.S. Elections?, several major security vulnerabilities on the  part of the Obama campaign are detailed.

‘As FBI surveillance tapes have previously  shown, foreign governments understand and are eager to exploit the weaknesses of  American campaigns,’ the report states.

‘This combined with the Internet’s ability to  dis-intermediate campaign contributions on a mass scale, as well as outmoded and  lax Federal Election Commission rules, make U.S. elections vulnerable to foreign  influence.’

To buy Obama merchandise, the campaign  requires buyers to enter their credit card CVV security code but does not ask  the credit card security code to be entered when making an online campaign  donation.

By GAI’s estimates, the Obama campaign’s  failure to utilise industry-standard protections potentially costs the campaign  millions in extra processing fees.

The study also points out security  problems with a host of political websites, including the online donation pages  for nearly half the members of Congress.

It found that the third-party owned  Obama.com – which redirects users to an official Obama campaign donation page – has 68 percent foreign traffic, which would suggest a large amount of foreign  traffic also heads to the Obama campaign donation page. The GAI found the site  was was bought by an Obama bundler in Shanghai, China.

‘It’s very clear the Obama campaign is the  most successful and aggressive at online fundraising and they on a regular basis  are submitting contributions or asking for contributions from people around the  world,’ Peter Schweizer, president of GAI, told Fox News.

The study claims the campaign used ‘active  foreign solicitation’ with email solicitations that go around the world and  raised the possibility that low-dollar donations could be trickling in with  little accounting of where they come from. Information on donations under $200  does not have to be disclosed.

But an Obama campaign official told Fox News  the claims were ‘baseless’ and insisted there were ‘robust safeguards’ in place  to prevent improper donations.

An Obama campaign blog post stated  that  the campaign does not accept donations from foreign nations, using an ‘address  verification system’ to confirm their genuineness and then manually reviewing  any transaction identified  as potentially fraudulent.

The campaign said it also requires a passport  copy from anyone stating they are eligible to donate but listed with an address  outside the U.S. and said the claims were ‘more reflective of the group’s  politics than any grain of truth’.

According to the GAI report, Romney’s  website, unlike Obama’s, does require donors to enter in their CVV information.  But the report questioned Romney’s use of foreign bundlers, noting the ‘full  extent’  of the Romney bundling network is not known because the Romney  campaign will not release that information.

A long section of the report is  dedicated to the Obama.com redirection site.  ‘The fact that Obama.com is  not owned or managed by the Obama campaign is a mystery,” the report says.  ‘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.’

In fact, it is registered to Robert  Roche, an Illinois native who lives in Shanghai, and has developed strong  commercial ties with the  Chinese government. He has made 19 visits to the  White House since 2009, including a personal meeting with Obama.

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 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, and former  President Jimmy Carter.

It is unclear whether  Roche still  controls Obama.com, since he sold the domain to anonymous buyers in 2010.

The report details numerous instances of  foreign nationals receiving fundraising letters from the Obama campaign.

‘Transparency is central to good government  and accountability,” concludes the report, “and transparency in campaign financing is an essential part of ensuring  that the government is run by candidates who are funded and elected by those  they are meant to serve: American citizens.’

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