Starting in June, Barack Obama’s website stopped asking for donations. Instead, it began asking for citizens who would “declare their independence from a broken system by supporting the first presidential election truly funded by the people.”
Perhaps the campaign did not expect that among those “declaring their independence would be donors named “Doodad Pro,” “Derty Poiiuy,” and “Jgtj Jfggjjfgj.” (And you thought Barack Obama had a funny name.) They may not have known that at least four Missourians and one Virginian would declare their independence involuntarily and later find fraudulent donations to Obama’s campaign on their credit card statements. The Obama campaign cannot claim ignorance of “Good Will,” whose address is the Goodwill headquarters in Austin, and whose occupation is “Loving You.” The Goodwill office received a letter from Obama last month indicating that Mr. Will had exceeded the legal limit with his $7,000 in contributions, and asking whether part of the money could be directed to Obama’s general election campaign.
Such abuse of the system may just be the inevitable consequence of a political system driven by massive amounts of money — or at least, that’s what Barack Obama used to say, before he figured out how to use that system to his advantage.
Reporters now note dryly that Barack Obama promised to take public matching funds for the presidential election, which would have limited the amount he could spend, and that he then reneged on his promise in June. This narrative understates the case.
Obama actually went much farther than merely giving his word that he would accept matching funds. In February of 2007, he challenged all of the Republican candidates for president to pledge, along with him, that they would take matching funds. It was supposed to be a rare display of political courage on his part, for the sake of principles he believed in.
Sen. John McCain, who has long clashed with conservatives on issues of campaign finance, accepted Obama’s challenge on Obama’s terms. would later write on a November 2007 questionnaire from the Midwest Democracy Network: “If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.”
Then, all of the sudden, Barack Obama announced in June that the public campaign-financing system was “broken” and so he could not participate in it. Presumably, someone went and broke the public campaign-financing system sometime between April and mid-June of this year.
Who did it? Barack Obama did. He broke the system as soon as it became clear to him that by rejecting public financing, he might be able to raise half a billion dollars and drown his opponent in money, as he is doing now.
It may all seem like a minor point now — just an occasion for a bit of Republican whining as Obama’s attack ads dominate the airwaves thanks to his broken promise. After all, Obama has raised quite a bit of money. But his donations from fake donors evoke the fake promise he made on principle just months ago to restrict campaign spending and limit the influence of special interests.
News reporters often assume, incorrectly, that the numbers in the FEC reports they scour each quarter are put on the Internet by magic. In fact, each one has to be recorded individually by a human being in what is really a painstaking process. This applies not only to the larger amounts contributed by Mr. Will and Mr. Jfggjjfgj, but also to amounts less than $200. A pair of human eyes has to check each one, even if amounts smaller than $200 are not required by law to be disclosed in any report.
Obama’s finance team missed quite a few obviously troubling large donations, from such unsavory individuals as Mr. Jfggjjfgj, “Mong Kong,” “Test Person,” and “Jockim Alberton,” who lives at a fictional address on a street that does not exist in Wilmington, Delaware. How many fictional characters might there be among the $220 million that Obama has collected in small, undisclosed contributions?
Obama’s small donors have all been recorded, and he could easily follow McCain’s lead by disclosing this major source of his campaign’s money. Hopefully the list of donors contains no one with Asdfjkl as a surname, and it bears no resemblance to an ACORN voter-registration list.
– David Freddoso is a staff reporter for National Review Online and author of The Case Against Barack Obama.