FEC flags Obama donations, GOP filing complaint

In a story I’ve been hearing about for a few days but didn’t have any substantive data on, it appears some of Barack Obama’s massive fund raising efforts might be called into question by the Federal Election Commission who has flagged a few records as of now.

The full report from Michael Isikoff at Newsweek:

The Obama campaign has shattered all fund-raising records, raking in $458 million so far, with about half the bounty coming from donors who contribute $200 or less. Aides say that’s an illustration of a truly democratic campaign. To critics, though, it can be an invitation for fraud and illegal foreign cash because donors giving individual sums of $200 or less don’t have to be publicly reported. Consider the cases of Obama donors “Doodad Pro” of Nunda, N.Y., who gave $17,130, and “Good Will” of Austin, Texas, who gave more than $11,000—both in excess of the $2,300-per-person federal limit. In two recent letters to the Obama campaign, Federal Election Commission auditors flagged those (and other) donors and informed the campaign that the sums had to be returned. Neither name had ever been publicly reported because both individuals made online donations in $10 and $25 increments. “Good Will” listed his employer as “Loving” and his occupation as “You,” while supplying as his address 1015 Norwood Park Boulevard, which is shared by the Austin nonprofit Goodwill Industries. Suzanha Burmeister, marketing director for Goodwill, said the group had “no clue” who the donor was. She added, however, that the group had received five puzzling thank-you letters from the Obama campaign this year, prompting it to send the campaign an e-mail in September pointing out the apparent fraudulent use of its name.

“Doodad Pro” listed no occupation or employer; the contributor’s listed address is shared by Lloyd and Lynn’s Liquor Store in Nunda. “I have never heard of such an individual,” says Diane Beardsley, who works at the store and is the mother of one of the owners. “Nobody at this store has that much money to contribute.” (She added that a Doodad’s Boutique, located next door, had closed a year ago, before the donations were made.)

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.) “While no organization is completely protected from Internet fraud, we will continue to review our fund-raising procedures,” LaBolt said. Some critics say the campaign hasn’t done enough. This summer, watchdog groups asked both campaigns to share more information about its small donors. The McCain campaign agreed; the Obama campaign did not. “They could’ve done themselves a service” by heeding the suggestions, said Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Sums of $11,000 an $17,000 are pretty big chunks and clearly in excess of the $2,300 per person limit. Why on earth didn’t the Obama campaign flag it themselves? As reported above, they have been returning fraudulent donations when they come to light. I have reported previously on the fact that their fund raising reports were too large for standard spreadsheet software titles like Microsoft Excel, perhaps these things have just been overlooked.

As expected, the Republican Party is jumping on board and is ready to file a formal complain, that story from the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Republican National Committee plans to file a fundraising complaint against Democrat Barack Obama’s presidential campaign Monday, alleging it has accepted donations that exceed federal limits as well as illegal contributions from foreigners.

RNC officials acknowledged Sunday that they do not have a list of foreign donors to Obama’s campaign. Instead, the complaint is based largely on media reports, including one from a conservative Web site.

The complaint asks the Federal Elections Commission to audit Obama’s campaign fund, RNC chief counsel Sean Cairncross said in a conference call with reporters.

Cairncross said little is known about many of Obama’s donors because the campaign is not required to disclose detailed information about people who give less than $200.

The Obama campaign, which is not accepting public funds, has raised more than $468 million. About half has come from small donors, a point of pride for the Obama campaign.

The Obama campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clearly some of the Obama donations are not legitimate, such as the ones mentioned by Isikoff above.

Maybe nothing but we’ll continue reporting as this story develops…