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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Why No Security for BarackObama.com Donations?



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So, remember the final item in Friday’s Jolt, about an Obama campaign finance scandal about to break? Over the weekend I received the gist, but was told to hold it until 9 a.m. Eastern Monday. Bits and pieces are now cropping up on conservative web sites, so here’s the gist: President Obama’s campaign web site does not meet the industry standard for secure use of credit cards — nor do about 47 percent of campaign web sites, including the 2010 campaign web site of Sen. Marco Rubio.

Anyone who’s ever bought anything on the Internet knows that you’re usually asked for the security code on the back of your credit card; this prevents someone who knows your name and credit card number but who hasn’t stolen the card from fraudulently using it. You even need the security code to purchase Obama paraphernalia from his campaign web site – but not to make a donation!

The portions of the report, from the Government Accountability Institute:

“There has been a lot of discussion of the role that money plays in our elections but little or no focus on the vulnerabilities of our election system to be influenced and or possibly manipulated by foreign and fraudulent campaign donations. That is precisely what this report is about, and it’s very troubling,” said Peter Schweizer, President and Co-Founder of the Government Accountability Institute.  “The findings in this report reveal that foreign agents of influence can easily be contributing untold amounts of illegal money into presidential and congressional campaigns.  Here’s the good news for most of those who are vulnerable: it’s a three-minute, couple-of-clicks solution,” said Schweizer. “We are urging all congressional offices and President Obama to turn on anti-fraud credit card protections immediately.”

The report found almost half (47.3%) of congressional campaign donation websites lack anti-fraud credit card security systems common on most e-commerce websites.  As for Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign, the research found his website does maintain the proper security measures.

Nearly Half of Congress Vulnerable to Fraudulent and Foreign Donations: Of the 446 House and Senate members who have an online donation page, 47.3% do not require the three or four digit credit card security number (officially called the Card Verification Value, or the CVV) for Internet contributions. The CVV is an industry-standard anti-fraud credit card security feature used by over 90% of all e-commerce operations and nineteen of the twenty largest charities in the United States. By not protecting themselves with industry-standard security, larger campaigns pay millions of dollars in extra card processing fees that could otherwise be avoided with the use of the CVV.

Given the scope of the problem within Congress, the Institute created an interactive 50-state map to allow citizens and journalists to identify which members of Congress lack industry-standard anti-fraud credit card protection on their campaign donation websites. Go to: www.CampaignFundingRisks.com

· Donation Solicitations On Foreign Websites To Then-Candidate Marco Rubio’s 2010 Donation Page: The Institute discovered multiple Spanish language, foreign websites featuring video links that included embedded advertising directing individuals to the donation solicitation page of then-U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio. In addition, Rubio lacked CVV protection, which was corrected in May of 2012. As of this report’s publication date, many of these links are still up and active. This is a potential violation of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) solicitation laws.

Ø  Obama Campaign Lacks the Industry-Standard Level Of Credit Card Security For Donations, But Uses It For Merchandise Purchases: To purchase Obama campaign merchandise, the campaign requires buyers to enter their credit card CVV security code, but does not require the credit card security code to be entered when making an online campaign donation. By GAI’s estimates, the Obama campaign’s failure to utilize industry-standard protections potentially costs the campaign millions in extra processing fees.

Ø  Obama.com Purchased By An Obama Bundler In Shanghai, China With Questionable Business Ties to State-Run Chinese Enterprises: In 2008, Obama.com was purchased by an Obama fundraiser living in Shanghai, China, whose business is heavily dependent on relationships with Chinese state-run television and other state-owned entities.

Ø  68% Of Traffic To Anonymously Registered Obama.comIs Foreign: According to industry leading web analytics site Markosweb, an anonymously registered redirect site (Obama.com) features 68 % foreign traffic. Starting in December 2011, the site was linked to a specific donation page on the official www.BarackObama.com campaign website for ten months. The page loaded a tracking number, 634930, into a space on the website labeled “who encouraged you to make this donation.” That tracking number is embedded in the source code for Obama.com and is associated with the Obama Victory Fund. In early September 2012, the page began redirecting to the standard Obama Victory Fund donation page.   Search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, using common spamming techniques, may have also been undertaken by unknown third-parties, generating foreign traffic to Obama.com.


Tags: Barack Obama , Campaign Fundraising , Marco Rubio


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