Thousands of political donations from outside the United States have helped fuel the White House bids of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, but both campaigns have lagged in disclosing the sources for much of their overseas campaign cash.
Mr. McCain took more than a half-million dollars from donors listing residences outside the U.S. and its territories, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records. But his campaign failed to provide disclosures for about a third of those supporters, such as where they work, what they do for a living and in what city they live.
While Mr. Obama’s campaign reported such information for all but about 11 percent of the $4.6 million he reported from outside the U.S., numerous donations include incomplete or clearly questionable data.
For example, the Obama campaign reported accepting 37 donations during late August, each for $10, from a donor identified as “JFGGJJFGJ, JGTJ.” The same donor listed a residence in “GJTJTJTJTJTJR.” Another donor listed “white collar drone” as an occupation. At least 100 Obama donations came from “anonymous.”
The lack of disclosure and erroneous donations concern campaign-finance watchdog groups. They say the vetting operations for both the campaigns appear overmatched by the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing through their coffers.
“Both of these campaigns seem overwhelmed by the amount of money they’ve had to process, and that’s reflected anecdotally in the bogus names, excessive contributions and incomplete disclosure on both sides,” said Massie Ritsch, spokesman for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. “While it doesn’t represent a lot of money, it does undercut the public’s trust in the system.”
Under FEC rules, presidential campaigns can accept money from overseas from a U.S. citizen, but they’re barred by federal law from taking donations from foreign nationals.
Campaigns are also required to make their “best effort” to track down information a donor fails to report, such as hometowns, occupations or employers. Both campaigns list to the FEC many donors’ countries as “NA,” for not available, and some could include donations from the United States that the campaigns did not properly report.
A review by The Washington Times of more than 15,000 of such donations reported by both campaigns combined - the majority of which went to Mr. Obama - includes just a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars in donations given during the presidential campaign. The Times analysis did not include non-itemized contributions - those under $200 - which the FEC does not require to be disclosed.
The McCain campaign allows people to search all of its contributions on its Web site by name, but the Obama campaign does not provide data about donors giving less than $200. In a recent FEC complaint, the Republican National Committee called for an investigation, saying these small donations - totaling more than $200 million - could include money to the Obama campaign from foreign nationals or others giving more than the $2,300 limit to a general campaign.
Both campaigns defended their record keeping and accused the other of failing to provide enough disclosure about the sources of their campaign cash.
“The real issue here is that the Obama campaign has completely refused to do what John McCain has done in identifying all contributors to his campaign - including the low-dollar donors who aren’t disclosed on FEC reports,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. “What is the Obama campaign hiding?”
Mr. Rogers said the campaign retains election law experts to review all FEC reports before they’re filed and that other staff members use database searches, public directories and other sources to track down required information, such as donors’ employers and occupations.
“Compliance staff makes [its] best effort to identify this info for all of our donors,” he said, adding that the campaign files amendments with the FEC updating reports with new information.
But Obama aides said the campaign’s policies now ensure that only U.S. citizens donate online. According to the Obama campaign, each donor must enter a U.S. passport number to contribute from a unique IP, or “Internet Protocol,” address outside of the U.S. and must bring a passport to an overseas fundraising event. Only recently was the Obama online store, which sells campaign hats, shirts and other items, closed to non-U.S. IP addresses, aides said.View Entire Story
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