Thursday, October 23, 2008

Show Me the Money

I wrote yesterday about the odd financial flows that have been taking place in this election cycle and the news today indicates that there are some real problems afoot. I'm especially interested in what Patrick Ruffini, who was George W. Bush's web guy in 2004, has to say about the Obama campaign's, uh, laissez faire approach to handling donations. Ruffini is using the F-word:

I just contributed $5 to Barack Obama.

I didn't want to. Ideally, I could have contributed $0.01 and cost them money. But it was the only way to confirm the root cause of the fraudulent micro-donations to the Obama campaign ("Doodad Pro" for $17,300 and "Good Will" for $11,000).

Obama campaign has turned its security settings for accepting online contributions down to the bare minimum -- possibly to juice the numbers, and turning a blind eye towards the potential for fraud not just against the FEC, but against unsuspecting victims of credit card fraud.

The issue centers around the Address Verification Service (or AVS) that credit card processors use to sniff out phony transactions. I was able to contribute money using an address other than the one on file with my bank account (I used an address I control, just not the one on my account), showing that the Obama campaign deliberately disabled AVS for its online donors.

AVS is generally the first line of defense against credit card fraud online. AVS ensures that not only is your credit card number accurate, but the street address you've submitted with a transaction matches the one on file with your bank., the largest credit card gateway provider in the country, lists AVS as a "Standard Transaction Security Setting," recommends merchants use it, and turns it on by default. So, in order for AVS to be turned off, it has to be intentional, at least with

That is apparently what the Obama campaign has done. Why would they do that? I can think of two reasons off the top of my head:

  1. There are limits on what any one individual can give to any candidate. Personally, I don't think there should be, but that's the law right now and Obama knows it. If there is a mechanism for someone to give money with a credit card but then offer a different name, as would be the case in this instance, that's an easy way to cheat. Especially if the campaign doesn't release the names of its small donors, which is how the Obama campaign operates.

  2. It is also illegal for foreigners to give money to a presidential campaign. If one were so inclined - say, for example, a certain European financier who fancies Democrats - such a system would make it possible for money from overseas to find the coffers of a campaign.

It might all be an honest mistake. Perhaps a rogue webbie on the Obama staff decided to open the spigot a little wider and the campaign will be aghast at all this and return all the money. But maybe not. Ruffini:

"Donors" like "Doodad Pro" can submit tons of donations totaling well above the $2,300 limit using different bogus addresses (this does clarify how donations from "Palestine", or PA, got through). And the campaign has no way to reliably de-dupe these donations, besides looking at the last four digits of the credit card number, which with 3.1 million donors is an identifier that could be shared by literally hundreds of donors, and is not as easy to eyeball like a common name or address would be. The ability to contribute with a false address, when the technology to prevent it not only exists but comes standard, is a green light for fraud.

The hour is late and these revelations, even if they start to leak over the retaining wall that the MSM has constructed around the Obama campaign, are probably not going to be enough to derail Obama's quest for the White House. But this much is certain -- the revelations will come out eventually. And if it turns out that the Obama campaign turned a blind eye toward fraudulent financial transactions on its behalf, he's going to have a hell of a time governing what's already a very fractious country.

1 comment:

Chuckwagon Boy said...

Deep Throat's words arise again: "If you want to know what is going on, just follow the money." Or something like that.