Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Obama's Finances

Barack Obama has raised a ridiculous amount of money this election cycle. Opting out of public financing, which raised the ire of editorial boards across the nation, has helped Obama benefit from a steady stream of money. The problems arise when this steady stream of money goes unchecked.

According to records reviewed by Newsweek, there are a number of small time donors who have donated well above the legal limit. In fact, there's a person named "Good Will" who gave more than $11,000 t his campaign, 378% higher than the legal limit. Another example is a person named "Doodad Pro" who went above and beyond Will with $17,130 or 645% higher than the legal limit. What's shadier is that both of these people listed businesses as their addresses, businesses who had no idea that random donations were being made from their address. Did Obama know about these shady donations? Did Obama's campaign know about these shady donations? They should have -- they've been priding themselves on returning shady donations in the past. These are some of them and should be returned to sender. Online donations under $200 are not required to be reported as detailed. McCain details them all, but Obama does not publicly do so. This has led to some controversy and a warranted FEC complaint from the GOP about this very issue.

In addition to this, the AP reported that Obama could have brought in almost 3.3 million dollars in contributions from non-American citizens. That's bad on so many levels. We should not be allowed to contribute to elections in Canada or the UK, just as British or Canadians citizens should not be allowed to donate to our candidates. This is not the first time foreign donations have been an issue, but I hope it will be the last. I'd love for politicians to not endorse outside of their country, it'd just make things easier and more reasonable.

Senator Obama has a money problem that is pretty substantial, but isn't generating much press. No one is talking about the illegal contributions or the FEC complaint which, I'm sure, won't get dealt with until the election is over. I know, Obama is not solely responsible for all the shady donations which come his way. But, his campaign should be keeping track of these things. With significantly more money than most any candidate who's run before, he should easily be able to hire someone or have someone already on staff to keep track of these things. The moment something comes along that violates campaign finance law, you fix the mistake -- send the money back that was in excess. If the money came from overseas and you can't prove that it's an American citizen, you send the money back. End of story, simple as that. Sadly...these simple measures are not being followed and hopefully more transparency will come with time.


The Only Sensible Man Alive said...

Newsweek among others have reported on this, though it seems to have come and gone without much hubbub, largely because:

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said the campaign has no idea who the individuals are and has returned all the donations, using the credit-card numbers they gave to the campaign. (In a similar case earlier this year, the campaign returned $33,000 to two Palestinian brothers in the Gaza Strip who had bought T shirts in bulk from the campaign's online store. They had listed their address as "Ga.," which the campaign took to mean Georgia rather than Gaza.)

If you'd like to try your hand at a system that verifies and keeps track of every donation that comes your way, be my guest. This doesn't seem to be an issue of dirty pool, though.

M.R. Newman said...

If he's returning them, that's fine. Again, I don't think Obama's entirely at fault, but I do think he has to be incredibly careful in keeping track of his donations. I know I wouldn't be able to do it, but I don't have a huge staff for my Presidential campaign at my disposal, Obama does.

Also, it shouldn't just be the candidate who gets in trouble for excessive donations -- the person who does the excessive donations or fakes donations should be getting fined for the fraud. The candidate should just be told to give it back. It's when they knowingly keep it that there's a problem.