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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