Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations

Haven't seen an awful lot about this story. To a certain extent it is inside baseball, a process matter that for the most part only applies to political junkies, campaign finance guys and, right now, conservatives.
Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.

Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.

The Obama organization said its extensive review has ensured that the campaign has refunded any improper contributions, and noted that Federal Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of donations.
And of course, the Obama campaign is right. Obama's campaign finance lawyer is one of the best, Bob Bauer. He knows the law.

Under the law, if a campaign receives a contribution is thinks might be illegal or otherwise suspect, it is supposed to segregate it in a separate accounting, make a good faith determination if it is indeed illegal or suspect, and refund it if necessary or if they can't make a determination. The problem, of course, as noted in the article is that it is almost impossible to keep up with the flood of contributions coming in via the internet, and it is impossible to tell if the card being used is a prepaid gift card, debit card or standard credit card.

Therein lies the problem. With the flood of money, and the advances in technology, it is not really Obama's fault. Yes, they could take some security steps that apparently the McCain campaign has taken. But teh fact of the matter is, that the FEC regulations regarding fundraising are a creation of the the 1970's with an update to account for credit card contributions. But they were never designed to deal with the age of internet contributions. And when FEC reports, even on a monthly basis, are tens of thousands of lines long in teh electronic filing format (i.e. one contributions per line), it is impossible to check everything from the viewpoint of suspicion.

On a slightly different note, even my mother, no campaign junkie to say the least, was wondering where Obama is getting all this money and whether it was legal or not. So it is creeping out there in the dialogue and certainly making people wonder.

1 comment:

Sons of the Patriots said...

I understand your point stating that the Obama campaign has broken no rules and that the FEC regulations are outdated, but does that justify the campaign not being held accountable? A law may not have been broken, but if the McCain campaign had the carefulness to implement additional security measures, and the Obama campaign has no reasoning to demonstrate why it couldn't do the same, the enormous sum of money collected should be viewed suspiciously.