More than 2.5 million Americans have contributed to Barack Obama's campaign, an impressive accomplishment. But are all of them Americans, as required by law?(emphasis added)
John McCain's campaign has identified its entire donor base, including those contributing under $200, whose names are not required to be legally disclosed. But the Obama campaign hasn't identified individual donors for nearly half of the $427 million his campaign has raised. Small donations account for much more of Mr. Obama's donation take than most candidates.
That concerns the Republican National Committee, which cites Federal Election Commission records that show some 11,500 Obama donors trigger one or more warning flags that they may be foreign nationals -- including use of a foreign bank account or foreign address. About one out of seven of the donors in question are clearly U.S. diplomats or military personnel since they used an APO address overseas. But the others may be worthy of inquiry, especially given the tale of Palestinian brothers Hosam and Monir Edwan, who contributed more than $31,300 in small increments to the Obama coffers even though they are residents of the Gaza Authority. The FEC flagged their donations and alerted the Obama campaign, which acted in slow motion to refund the money. Almost a year after the last donation by the two brothers, the campaign has still failed to return $891 of their contributions.
The problems with possible foreign donations could have been resolved if the Obama campaign had simply agreed to the transparency rules suggested by the Center for Responsive Politics and seven other watchdog groups. "We asked both campaigns for more information on small donors," Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center, told Newsmax's Ken Timmerman. "The Obama campaign never responded," she notes, while the McCain campaign has made all of its small donor data available online.
For its part, the Obama campaign responds to questions about its small donors by saying "we will continue to review our fundraising procedures to ensure that we are taking every available step to root-out improper contributions." No mention of why it won't post the names of donors online.
The FEC will eventually unravel the mystery, but it usually requires three to four years to finish any probe. Should Mr. Obama become president, the full extent to which his 2008 campaign may have skirted the law will be known about the time he seeks re-election.
My position on campaign finance reform is the same it has always been: I disagree with McCain's signature piece of legislation, McCain-Feingold. I think it's a horrible, anti-speech bill. I say let anyone donate any amount to anyone, but let there be transparency. Also, limit donations to American donors (though I can be persuaded on this point).
This way we wouldn't have shady 527s accepting donations from who knows where and run by who knows what group with no responsibility to anyone. This way, if there is an ad in bad faith, we would know who to castigate.
If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.