The Washington Post has a report on the cover of today's paper that offers an incomplete and cursory analysis of Sen. Barack Obama's online fund-raising.
Concerns about anonymous donations seeping into the campaign began to surface last month, mainly on conservative blogs. Some bloggers described their own attempts to display the flaws in Obama's fundraising program, donating under such obviously phony names as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and reported that the credit card transactions were permitted.
Obama officials said it should be obvious that it is as much in their campaign's interest as it is in the public's interest for fake contributions to be turned back, and said they have taken pains to establish a barrier to prevent them. Over the course of the campaign, they said, a number of additional safeguards have been added to bulk up the security of their system.
In a paper outlining those safeguards, provided to The Washington Post, the campaign said it runs twice-daily sweeps of new donations, looking for irregularities. Flagged contributions are manually reviewed by a team of lawyers, then cleared or refunded. Reports of misused credit cards lead to immediate refunds.
It is not in Obama's interest that fake contributions be turned back. Sorry, but it isn't. Fake contributions spend just like real contributions.
Second, the Post report ignores the fact that the most basic anti-fraud checks on credit card donations have been disabled by the Obama campaign. On Friday, the National Journal reported that one of their reporters successfully donated $25 to the Obama campaign Web site using a pre-paid American Express gift card. The McCain campaign's Web site refused the same method of payment. Why the difference? Well, pre-paid gift cards allow donations to be made with only the donor's word as to who they are. Those gift cards are available in amounts up to $1,000. If the donor chooses a name out of the phone book, instead of "Saddam Hussein" or "Osama bin Laden," it's extremely unlikely that Obama's anti-fraud team would be able to identify the illegal donations.
The simplest way to prevent illegal donations is use the Address Verification System that is the default of every online commerce site. Obama has intentionally disabled his. His "safeguards" are insufficient to the task -- as has been demonstrated in recent days -- and serve only to provide political coverage for an unknown amount of fraud.