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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

CANDIDATE OBAMA'S FINANCE FOLLIES

“They can buy millions of dollars worth of TV ads — and worst of all, they don’t even have to reveal who is actually paying for them.”
-President Obama, 2010

Obama Campaign Finance
During the 2008 presidential election, something that never got much attention in the press but always bothered me was how then-Senator Obama financed his campaign. President Obama stared out claiming that he'd only take public funds, as Fredrecka Schouten wrote about in USA Today that year:
Obama and McCain both pledged last year that they would accept taxpayer money for the general election if his opponent would do the same. Obama began stepping away from that as the primaries got underway and he shattered fundraising records. In a Feb. 20 column in USA TODAY, Obama said he would keep his pledge only if McCain also agreed to limit spending by political parties and refuse fundraising help from outside groups.
Soon after, he abandoned public financing, claiming the system didn't work and he was facing "opponents who have become masters at gaming this broken system." And so his first campaign promise was broken even before the election.

As the campaign went on, people began to notice discrepencies and problems in Obama's finance system. The most notable and infamous was how his web site, unlike every website on the internet that accepted credit cards, had the security limited.

First of all, the system didn't check the name against the number on the card; you could enter any name, as long as you had a valid card number. Second, the system didn't ask for the 3 digit security code from the back of the card, a critical requirement because it won't let you use trash from behind stores to learn credit card numbers and buy things on the internet.

The result was that folks were having their cards used to donate to President Obama when they personally had done no such thing, and that foreign donors were able to contribute to the Obama campaign without any record of their name and location on the website. This wasn't an error or oversight, the software defaults to full security and has to be deliberately manipulated to avoid those steps.

The troubling finance news went on. Multiple oddities showed up including people who donated money to obama over a hundred separate times, donors who don't exist, donors whose name and location are just random keystrokes, donors from other countries (a violation of campaign law), and most infamously, donations to Obama from Gaza refugee camps.

The Obama team claims they refunded these Gaza donations, but the Palestinians in question say not, and campaign finance records show no such refund. Overall, President Obama pulled in more than two million dollars in overseas donations - an amount claimed to be from US citizens living overseas by the Obama team. Michelle Malkin has much more information on the questionable and fraudulent donations in her recent Examiner editorial.

The press at the time, fascinated by and protective of Obama either ignored these stories or heavily downplayed them in very limited, buried stories.

Now, finally, years after President Obama won the election with record-shattering $750 million campaign funding, some action is being taken to look into these problems. The Federal Elections Commision (FEC) began auditing the Obama campaign finance two years ago, digging through mountains of paperwork and data. What they find and how they respond is something every American should watch closely.

Because if someone is able to ignore campaign finance laws and violate them so blatantly to win, then the entire electoral process suffers and so does democracy its self. In order to have any semblance of democracy the citizens of a country have to have confidence in the election and their vote in particular. If they believe the election can be bought by an ethically-challenged candidate using money from other countries, that erodes confidence in the vote.

And if you can buy an election by just ignoring the law, your promises, and bury your opponent in hundreds of millions of dollars, what's the point in voting at all? Mind you, with all those advantages, President Obama didn't win by that big a margin but he still won, and once a presidential candidate wins, the chances of any sort of investigation are greatly reduced, as is the confidence of anyone that they'll face the slightest legal action no matter what the investigation reveals.

*This originally ran on the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone.

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