In September, the Obama campaign got 1.8 million donations from small contributors who did not break the $200 threshold requiring that their information be reported to the Federal Election Commission. They gave the campaign 98 percent of the $181 million it raised that month, a figure vastly higher than its take in any previous month.
Is the Obama campaign financing itself through foreign money funneled in through a website owned by a private businessman, living in China, that uses the name Obama.com?
In 1997, we learned — too late — that the Clinton campaign had relied heavily on thinly disguised Chinese government money for much of its early blitz of issue ads in the 1996 election. The early intimations of funding fraud in the campaign (Al Gore’s exploits with the Buddhist monks) shaved off half of Clinton’s margin, cutting his lead from 14 to 7 points in the weeks before the election. But the full dimensions of the scandal were not apparent until then-Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) held hearings the following year revealing the depth of the campaign’s reliance on foreign money.
Now, in the last month of the 2012 race, Newsweek magazine has raised serious questions about Obama’s fundraising and its possible reliance on foreign donors and outright fraud to generate its funding.
Newsweek raises questions, in particular, about Robert W. Roche, the co-founder and chairman of the board of Acorn International Inc., a media and branding direct-sales company based in Shanghai. He also owns the Obama.com website, which appears on the Internet throughout the world. Roche’s site links to Barackobama.com, the official campaign site, where it invites people to donate to the campaign. Obama.com gets 2,000 visits a day, two-thirds of which are from foreigners. Is it a giant money-laundering operation to feed foreign money into the Obama campaign?
Despite the disclaimer on the campaign site stating that foreign nationals cannot donate to Obama, the suspicion remains that Roche’s vigilance in assuring that Obama.com is on the Internet throughout the world has led to a significant influx of foreign cash into the coffers of the president’s reelection effort.
It will be too late to wait until 2013 to find out. The House Oversight Committee should immediately investigate, using its subpoena power, to see if there is, indeed, a flow of foreign money, via Obama.com, into the president’s campaign.
Roche, by the way, has visited the White House 11 times during Obama’s tenure, according to the visitor log.
These questions arise because the Obama campaign, unlike Romney’s or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton’s in 2008, refuses to ask donors for their CVV number (the number on your credit card that one is often asked for after giving one’s name and expiration date). The CVV is designed to assure that the donor is actually physically holding the card.
The Obama campaign is no stranger to fraudulent donations funneled in through phony names. In 2008, The Washington Post reported that Mary Biskup was reported to have donated more than $170,000 to the Obama campaign in small donations. But Biskup says she never gave any money to the campaign. Some other donor must have given the money in her name.
Given these past problems and the Obama campaign’s sudden influx of small donors, Newsweek wonders why the campaign does not require CVV numbers to minimize the chances of fraud.
The magazine noted that the campaign’s past scandals “make it all the more surprising that the Obama campaign does not use … the card verification value [system].” The magazine added that “the Romney campaign, by contrast, does use the CVV — as has almost every other candidate who has run for president in recent years.”
Let’s find out the facts before the election. If a president who promised ethical transparency is using small donations — too small to trigger the federal reporting requirement — to funnel in foreign donations, we need to know. Before Election Day.