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Reply to Lindgren on "Most Corrupt Election":

This is just a quick reply to Jim Lindgren on whether the 2008 election was, as he claims, "easily . . . the most corrupt election" in his lifetime. Jim believes this is "obvious," but I am unpersuaded. Even assuming that every allegation Jim has cited is true, I still think he overstates his case.

For starters, it's a bit odd to call an election the "most corrupt" when there is no evidence that the corruption altered the outcome. Jim notes that there was fairly widespread voter registration fraud and illegal campaign contributions, but neither is anything new. I also find both to be less significant than the sorts of corruption and illegality we have seen in prior elections (ranging from the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans to the "dirty tricks" of 1972, both of which Jim mentions). Jim also points to media bias, but I don't consider that "corruption."

We've had illegal campaign contributions before, and actual voter fraud (as may have occurred in Wisconsin in 2004). Tallying the alleged number of violations does not, in itself, settle the case. 100,000 faulty voter registrations woud be reason for concern, but still less significant than 1,000 fraudulent votes. Similarly with illegal campaign contributions, I am less concerned about frequent small contributions from foreign nationals than allegations of organized efforts by foreign governments or special interests to funnel large amounts of money, even if the dollar amount of the former is greater. Given there are credible allegations of actual vote fraud in prior elections -- and even allegations that vote fraud may have altered the outcome (as some believe occurred in 1960) -- pointing to widespread registration fraud without corresponding levels of vote fraud does not establish that the 2008 presidential election was the "most corrupt" in the past fifty-plus years.

In closing, let me note that Jim has made an extraordinary claim: that this election has been the most corrupt election in fifty years. In my book, such an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence, and in this case I don't see it.

PDXLawyer (mail):
Was it "the most corrupt"? Frankly, I doubt it matters all that much. I'd hope that the fact that corruption surely *didn't* change the Presidential race might make it easier to face the fact that there *was* at least some, and to take steps to root it out, so that future elections, which might be closer, will benefit.

I'd hope the Obama administration will take this on.
11.5.2008 11:00pm
Fub:
Jonathan Adler wrote:
Similarly with illegal campaign contributions, I am less concerned about frequent small contributions from foreign nationals than allegations of organized efforts by foreign governments or special interests to funnel large amounts of money, even if the dollar amount of the former is greater.
The question I see is whether some apparent "small contributions from foreign nationals" might actually be "organized efforts by foreign governments or special interests to funnel large amounts of money".

I've heard that such practices are sometimes called "smurfing" or "salami" method. The point of the exercise is to transfer a large amount from one source, disguised as many small amounts from disparate sources.

I have no idea whether that was happening or not, but the appearance of many small unaccountable contributions could raise at least the suspicion that it was.
11.5.2008 11:09pm
Gilbert (mail):
Keep at it, but voter registration fraud is a contradiction in terms. Unless they vote twice, it isn't fraud.

I am personally registered in three states, as far as I know.
11.5.2008 11:22pm
TruthInAdvertising:
Lindgren's claims the entire election season have been largely separated from reality and the facts. I don't see why he should change now.
11.5.2008 11:23pm
LT:
Fub,

At this point, allegations of "smurfing" are just hearsay. There is zero evidence that foreign powers have surreptitiously tried to buy influence through many small donations. You're right that it's possible, but a great many things are possible. If we're going to make claims such as "this election was the most corrupt ever", we need to come up with scenarios about which we can say more than "well, how do you know it isn't true?" It is equally possible (and arguably more likely) that the vast majority of Obama's small contributions came from poor or middle class people who gave as they could to a cause they believed in - surely the election result makes it clear that millions such people are out there.

In other words, there is nothing that nudges the foreign influence conspiracy theory from the realm of "possible" into the realm of "plausible".



Jonathan Adler,

I agree entirely, especially with your dismissal of the press argument. Press bias (even if it does exist) does not have anything to do with corruption unless journalists have been bribed or threatened.
11.5.2008 11:28pm
OrinKerr:
In addition to agreeing with Jonathan's points, I would offer the experience of having volunteered at RNC headquarters manning the national hotline for election problems on election day. Call volume was light -- extremely light. If it was such a corrupt election, I suppose I would have expected more calls into the national hotline.
11.5.2008 11:31pm
MarkField (mail):
If the look-back period is 50 years, then Prof. Lindgren is smoking something I'd really like to try. That would take us back to 1958, a time when probably 95% of blacks in the South could not vote due to fraudulent tactics and outright terrorism. Anything that happened this year -- and I'm not convinced much did -- pales (pun intended) in comparison with the corruption of segregation.
11.5.2008 11:32pm
Paul Milligan (mail):
I am SURE that ACORN got a few thousand bogus votes in here or there. The Black Panthers in PA at polling places were another example. However - this was by no means a 'close' election'. It was a BLOWOUT. Obama won, period. There is no conceivable level of 'vote rigging' etc that could acocunt for his margin of victory.

He fooled the country, and the world, period. He used his skin color ( which is the only thing that got him elected ), and he lied and lied and lied .... and he got away with it, and he won.
11.6.2008 12:11am
Mark Rockwell (mail):

He fooled the country, and the world, period. He used his skin color ( which is the only thing that got him elected ), and he lied and lied and lied .... and he got away with it, and he won.



Yeah. That must be it.
11.6.2008 12:18am
Cold Warrior:
As Adler points out, it really is a preposterous claim.

I've noted in the earlier threads that Lindgren dismisses -- for no good reason -- the disenfranchisement of millions of black voters in the pre-Voting Rights Act. That doesn't "count" as corruption. Neither does the break-in and burglary of your opposing party's main offices. That's not "corruption." Apparently those things are too serious to count as "corruption."
11.6.2008 12:26am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Or 60k votes in 1960 Chicago, which if true actually did change the outcome (disregarding the issues from the south in the same time period, since I'm honestly not certain which way they would have broken).
11.6.2008 12:55am
Elliot123 (mail):
"For starters, it's a bit odd to call an election the "most corrupt" when there is no evidence that the corruption altered the outcome."

Why is that odd? Suppose McCain received $100 million from the government of Taiwan and paid software developers for voting machines to skew the results for him, yet still lost? Would you say is wasn't a corrupt election because Obama won?
11.6.2008 1:00am
Matthew K:

The Black Panthers in PA at polling places were another example.


11.6.2008 1:05am
LT:
"Suppose McCain received $100 million from the government of Taiwan and paid software developers for voting machines to skew the results for him, yet still lost? Would you say is wasn't a corrupt election because Obama won?"

I would say it was corrupt, but still less so than an election in which the corruption clearly altered the outcome. Remember, the issue we're discussing isn't the presence of corruption, it's the extent when compared with past elections (see: Cold Warrior's point)
11.6.2008 1:06am
Matthew K:
hmm, it doesn't seem to want to post the link. Apart from some overblown commentary on fox news, is there anything to indicate that the TPM report of two well behaved Black Panthers at a single polling station in PA is understated?
11.6.2008 1:06am
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Orin Kerr: In addition to agreeing with Jonathan's points, I would offer the experience of having volunteered at RNC headquarters manning the national hotline for election problems on election day. Call volume was light -- extremely light. If it was such a corrupt election, I suppose I would have expected more calls into the national hotline.

Wouldn't such calls be far more likely to have gone to Obama campaign headquarters?
11.6.2008 2:15am
Steve P. (mail):
It's almost disheartening that Prof. Adler had to actually write out this post, since it should be obvious. If a (competent) academic wants to argue about any current situation being an extreme never seen before, they should have more than vague assertions of media bias and limited exmaples of registration fraud, with no relevant statistics from control years.

If Prof Lindgren still believes that this is the dirtiest election ever, I strongly recommend "Scorpion Tongues" by Gail Collins.
11.6.2008 2:28am
TokyoTom (mail):
Here's something more that indicates claims of fraudulent voting lack substantial support.
11.6.2008 3:25am
Brett Bellmore:
I think Lindgren has a valid point concerning the credit card donations: A foreign government making systematic attempts to donate to an American campaign (Like the Chinese government and Clinton.) doesn't make that campaign corrupt. A campaign taking affirmative steps to make it easy for foreigners to make illegal donations DOES make that campaign corrupt.

And if Obama ran a corrupt campaign and then won legitimately, it doesn't retroactively make the campaign less corrupt, it just means the corruption was pointless.

I don't know if this was the most corrupt campaign during my life, but it was the most openly corrupt, in some respects. The corruption wasn't skulking about in the shadows, it strode openly in the daylight, relying on an in the tank press to refuse to report on it. For the most part successfully.
11.6.2008 6:43am
Brett Bellmore:

Here's something more that indicates claims of fraudulent voting lack substantial support.


This is rather like saying that the light in my refrigerator can't possibly be stuck on, because I never see the interior illuminated while the door is shut, and the fact that the switch on the door not doing anything when I press it with my finger isn't proof. Our voting system is almost deliberately designed to make proving vote fraud difficult. And I've got my doubts about that "almost".

After this election, if some civic minded organization secures a list of people who supposedly voted, in an area where vote fraud might be suspected, and then tries interviewing a representative sample to verify whether they DID vote, there will be cries of voter intimidation, and the effort will be shut down. Despite the fact that this would be the gold standard when it comes to checking for fraud, and only a lunatic would bother intimidating voters right AFTER an election.

You're never going to convince doubters that our elections are really very honest, until some serious quality control is permitted.
11.6.2008 7:04am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Democrats are not serious about voter intimidation, period.

They don't have a problem with it when it works in their favor, instead actively courting it - do you see them decrying the Black Panthers in Philly? Do you see the entire point behind removing the secret ballot for unionizing?

Also, if republicans were actually depending on voter intimidation, then the last thing they'd want is a scenario where they show up to a voting area, ready to challenge votes... only to have the voter pull out his photo ID and laugh in the would-be intimidator's face. It is the democrats who want to keep people guessing about a voter's status... and as you see above, the reason isn't to protect legitimate voters.
11.6.2008 7:33am
Federal Dog:
"For starters, it's a bit odd to call an election the "most corrupt" when there is no evidence that the corruption altered the outcome."


This makes no sense to me. The extent of corrupt attempts to influence an election does not logically depend on actually altering its result: Corruption is corruption, whether or not it changes the outcome.

This is akin to defendants questioning prosecution for an attempted crime because they did not actually succeed -- for whatever reason -- in pulling it off. That's not the allegation.
11.6.2008 7:39am
Bill Twist:
Similarly with illegal campaign contributions, I am less concerned about frequent small contributions from foreign nationals than allegations of organized efforts by foreign governments or special interests to funnel large amounts of money, even if the dollar amount of the former is greater.

The problem with that is that with modern technology it is literally child's play to set up a script that can donate tens of thousands of dollars in small amounts. If you want to get fancy, you can even have it randomly choose names, occupations, and addresses.

Given that there was absolutely no checking done by the Obama campaign website to make sure that online credit card transactions were valid donations under US election law, to the point where numerous people donated under false names using foreign addresses successfully, how can we be sure that foreign governments or organizations didn't successfully donate to the Obama campaign in large totals, one small chunk at a time?
11.6.2008 8:31am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
mark:

If the look-back period is 50 years, then Prof. Lindgren is smoking something I'd really like to try.


Lindgren said this:

this has easily been the most corrupt election in my lifetime


Has Lindgren ever asserted that he wasn't born yesterday? Maybe this is his way of telling us that he actually was.
11.6.2008 8:35am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
how can we be sure that foreign governments or organizations didn't successfully donate to the Obama campaign in large totals, one small chunk at a time?


We can't. And fools who can't (or pretend not to) comprehend the difference between absence of evidence and evidence of absence are lining up to defend a person who could have easily conducted his campaign in a non-corrupt manner, but chose not to do so.
11.6.2008 8:36am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ryan:

fools who can't (or pretend not to) comprehend the difference between absence of evidence and evidence of absence


But we know where the evidence can be found. You just have to know where to look:

We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
11.6.2008 8:41am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
bill:

Given that there was absolutely no checking done by the Obama campaign website to make sure that online credit card transactions were valid donations under US election law, to the point where numerous people donated under false names using foreign addresses successfully, how can we be sure that foreign governments or organizations didn't successfully donate to the Obama campaign in large totals, one small chunk at a time?


You and a bunch of other people are suffering from a fundamental misunderstanding with regard to how this process works. A very clear and helpful explanation is here. Keep scrolling and read all the subsequent comments by morat20.
11.6.2008 8:53am
Sarcastro (www):
Those two black panthers destroyed the fabric of American democracy! If the Dems don't decry those two guys right now, I'm docking Obama eleventy million electoral votes and calling the election for McCain.

In other news, absence of evidence is now considered proof.
11.6.2008 8:56am
Visitor Again:
Those Black Panthers stationed at polling places were well-behaved, they gave no cause for anyone to be intimidated, and they were there to prevent the Republican bullies from threatening Democratic voters, particularly black voters, as they did in 2000 and 2004.
11.6.2008 9:03am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Africa is a continent? Really? I thought it was a song by Toto (wiki, video).
11.6.2008 9:26am
John from Dallas:
"Despite the fact that this would be the gold standard when it comes to checking for fraud, and only a lunatic would bother intimidating voters right AFTER an election."

But the assertion that this is the most corrupt election in 50 years makes it clear that there are plenty of lunatic's still in this world.
11.6.2008 9:29am
PubliusFL:
jukeboxgrad: You and a bunch of other people are suffering from a fundamental misunderstanding with regard to how this process works. A very clear and helpful explanation is here. Keep scrolling and read all the subsequent comments by morat20.

But morat20's explanation does not address types of contribution fraud other than one person attempting to fraudulently make a contribution with someone else's credit card. For example, fraudulent use of prepaid credit cards (e.g., in order to circumvent limits on foreign contributions) or multiple small contributions made in order to circumvent limits on contributions from a single individual. No one is going to reject those transactions on the "back end."
11.6.2008 10:13am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Look, as pointed out above, we can't really know how much illegal money went into the Obama campaign; we do know that some did, because a number of illegal donations were identified and proven, not least of them being Obama's aunt.

What is at least as much the point, though, is that --- as someone who has been building web-based systems pretty much since it was possible to buy things over the web and dealing with computer security for considerably longer --- the lack of audit and control on Obama's web site would have lost any company run by mere mortals their merchant account in minutes. Obama's campaign had a legal obligation not to accept donations from people who were overseas --- they didn't meet it. They had a legal obligation to limit contributions by an individual; we know they, um, weren't successful.

We also know Obama spent $11 a vote, while McCain only spent $1.50 per vote.
11.6.2008 10:39am
TruthInAdvertising:
"Look, as pointed out above, we can't really know how much illegal money went into the Obama campaign; we do know that some did, because a number of illegal donations were identified and proven, not least of them being Obama's aunt. "

The same could be said of the McCain campaign or any political campaign in this county. We have campaign finance rules that are almost entirely dependent on the honesty of the person making the contribution. When I make a contribution through any candidates web site, I check boxes stating that A, B and C are true. But you the candidate and you the campaign have no way of verifying that those statements are true, do you? John McCain's campaign has no way of determining whether I'm a US citizen or not, whether I'm funneling money from some other source or not, whether I'm using corporate or union money or not, etc. Even after the contribution is accepted, did the McCain campaign check to see if contributors were US citizens? No. You can do some compliance checks after the fact to make sure that I didn't exceed my contribution limits, etc. But the reality of the system that exists today is that almost all of the contributions could be considered suspect.

Personally, I would support getting rid of the reporting threshold and require all contributions to be associated with a name and address. But it doesn't change the underlying reality that we'll never be able to verify what the donors claim to be true.
11.6.2008 11:02am
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
I hope (but do not expect) that there will be some serious investigative reporting about how the Obama campaign was financed. My understanding is that the Obama campaign deliberately decided to not record any information about the source of contributions under $200, thus allowing repeat contributions from the same source as well as allowing illegal foreign contributions. I've also heard that there was a deliberate "contribution campaign" involing people like Libya's leader Gaddafi. Put those two things together, and there certainly seems to be a possibility that this was the most corrupt election in history.
11.6.2008 11:11am
Sarcastro (www):
I echo Andrew Hyman's call for an investigation.

I've heard Obama received fat sacks of cash money from Nyarlathotep.

It is also my understanding that unspeakable monstrosities from beyond the stars contributed souls, thus allowing evil sorceries to be used by The One.

Putting these two things together, it is certainly seems to be a possibility that the stars are right.
11.6.2008 11:21am
LN (mail):

Obama's campaign had a legal obligation not to accept donations from people who were overseas --- they didn't meet it.


I know this may be hard to believe, but some American citizens actually live in other countries. Contrary to your nonsense, it is entirely legal for an American citizen living abroad to donate money to Presidential candidates. The Obama campaign website asked such donors for their US passport number; the McCain campaign did not.
11.6.2008 11:24am
Rock On:
The Black Panthers in PA at polling places were another example.

Two points: one, it's not really accurate to call them Black Panthers, since they are members of the "New Black Panther Party", which the actual Black Panthers disowned years ago. Two, the sightings I heard about were at 12th and Fairmount, which, if you know Philly very well, you know almost definitely didn't have any registered Republicans voting anyway. Just saying.
11.6.2008 11:36am
Thomas_Holsinger:
It's a definitional issue, specifically whether corruption in state and local elections are included. Given the wretched state of Southern politics 50 years ago, 2008 was hardly more corrupt than 1958 or 1960 if state and local elections are included.

And the fund-raising corruption of Nixon's 1972 campaign sets a very high bar, because that involved overt extortion.

What IMO makes the 2008 election unique in terms of corruption is that there was central direction of fraud, by the winning campaign, in both fund-raising and voting, with the latter being spun off to a nominally independent, but closely associated, group - ACORN. And none of this will be prosecuted or even investigated with subpena power because the Democrats won both the White House and Congress.

This is the really frightening thing.

Furthermore it WILL be emulated by the Republicans because that has become the only way to win.

All campaign finance and disclosure laws are now dead.

The Obama campaign is definitely a watershed in American politics. It just got a lot uglier and it will get worse. At some point criminal conspiracy in fund-raising and voting fraud will produce a winner who would not have won otherwise.

And then Americans will go for their guns.
11.6.2008 11:38am
Elliot123 (mail):
" would say it was corrupt, but still less so than an election in which the corruption clearly altered the outcome. Remember, the issue we're discussing isn't the presence of corruption, it's the extent when compared with past elections (see: Cold Warrior's point)"

I'd suggest the corruption is a function of the behavior of people during the campaign. So, we may have a corrupt election in which the corruption succeeded, or a corrupt election in which the corruption failed.

We can compare the behavior during the elections when contasting multiple elections, without considering the winner. This allows us to put the elecions on a scale of corruption.

So, we might have a mildly corrupt election in which the corruption succeeded, or a hugely corrupt election in which the corruption failed.
11.6.2008 11:39am
Anderson (mail):
Unless they vote twice, it isn't fraud.

I am personally registered in three states, as far as I know.


So *thrice* is okay? ;)

I've heard Obama received fat sacks of cash money from Nyarlathotep.

Sarcastro, your nerdiness rises to such high esteem from that comment, that it could increase even more if I learned that your familiarity with the Crawling Chaos derived, not from HPL directly, but from the Deities &Demigods Cyclopedia -- the *first* edition thereof.

Incidentally, I don't think anyone's ever seen Nyarlathotep and Osama bin Laden in the same room ... hopefully the Old Ones will not be able to trace my IP address to silence me on that subject.
11.6.2008 11:40am
Anderson (mail):
It just got a lot uglier and it will get worse.

You're forgetting about the concentration camps for Republicans, which will make voter fraud irrelevant.

And then Americans will go for their guns.

I'm sure that fantasy keeps you, ah, warm on those cold lonely nights.
11.6.2008 11:45am
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Sarcastro seems to be living up to his name. Treat the whole matter as a joke, if you like. Here's what the leader of Libya said last June:

<blockquote>"There are elections in America now. Along came a black citizen of Kenyan African origins, a Muslim, who had studied in an Islamic school in Indonesia. His name is Obama. All the people in the Arab and Islamic world and in Africa applauded this man. They welcomed him and prayed for him and for his success, and they may have even been involved in legitimate <b>contribution campaigns</b> to enable him to win the American presidency."</blockquote>

And it seems incontrovertible that the Obama campaign deliberately refused to record the source of contributions under $200. See here.
11.6.2008 11:46am
Anderson (mail):
Along came a black citizen of Kenyan African origins, a Muslim, who had studied in an Islamic school in Indonesia. His name is Obama.

Sarcastro and Mr. Hyman are indeed onto something:

And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none could tell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh. The fellahin knelt when they saw him, yet could not say why.
11.6.2008 12:08pm
LN (mail):
Andrew, McCain didn't itemize contributions under $200 either. The candidates are not required to do so.


Federal candidates are not required to itemize such contributions to the F.E.C. unless the donor’s cumulative total adds up to more than $200. Roughly 70 percent of these contributions to Mr. Obama are not reported, compared with more than 75 percent of Mr. McCain’s.


link
11.6.2008 12:08pm
Anderson (mail):
I see that I'm behind the curve -- the wingnut, er, patriotic bloggers were way ahead of me.

Of course, I would expect them to be more in touch with seething madness.

(Really, given HPL's racism, it should be no surprise that Nyarlathotep maps so well onto Scary Black Liberal Named Hussein, but it's still impressive how HPL delineated the boogeyman that continues to haunt the Racially Impaired Right today.)
11.6.2008 12:13pm
Anderson (mail):
And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods — the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.

Typical Obama rally.

And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished; for the small hours were rent with the screams of a nightmare.

Grant Park, obviously.

It is suggested by some that he will destroy the human race and possibly the earth as well.

I'm pretty sure we could find some Corner posts to that effect.
11.6.2008 12:15pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
LN, I realize that Federal candidates are not required to itemize contributions under $200 to the F.E.C. Nevertheless, some non-itemized contributions under $200 are illegal, and therefore candidates are required to take reasonable steps to ensure that they are not receiving illegal contributions.

Multiple unreported contributions from a single person that amount to more than $200 are illegal.

Foreign contributions are illegal.
11.6.2008 12:21pm
Sarcastro (www):

My uncle's death was far from natural. He fell on a narrow hill street leading up from an ancient waterfront swarming with foreign mongrels, after a careless push from a Negro sailor. I did not forget the mixed blood and marine pursuits of the cult-members in Louisiana, and would not be surprised to learn of secret methods and rites and beliefs


This is what the cult of Obama is! McCain supporters, prepare for sacrifices (if you know what I mean) and pray you get eaten first!
11.6.2008 12:25pm
LN (mail):
Andrew: foreign contributions from non-citizens are illegal. Obama asked overseas contributors to provide their passport number, while McCain did not.
11.6.2008 12:32pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
publius:

For example, fraudulent use of prepaid credit cards (e.g., in order to circumvent limits on foreign contributions)


I haven't seen anyone show that Obama has accepted prepaid credit cards where someone used a phony name and/or address. Making a contribution with a prepaid credit card is essentially no different than putting twenty bucks in cash in an envelope and mailing it. Did McCain reject donations like that? I doubt it. FEC guidelines allow such donations, as long as a name and address are provided and recorded.

And the bloggers who made a giant fuss about Obama's web site weren't talking about prepaid credit cards. They were talking about regular credit cards, and how it was possible to enter a phony name. The comments I pointed to in the other thread explained why this complaint is silly.

…multiple small contributions made in order to circumvent limits on contributions from a single individual. No one is going to reject those transactions on the "back end."


But they are going to be rejected on the "back end," because the system is ultimately keeping track of name and address. There will always be some errors when millions of transactions are processed, but no one has proven that Obama's back-end error-checking is worse than McCain's.
11.6.2008 12:40pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Obama could ask overseas contributors to swear on a stack of bibles that they are US citizens, but that doesn't mean the contributors will do so. If untraceable contributions are accepted, then there is no way to know who the donor is. All I'm saying is that there is the potential here for huge, huge corruption. I have no idea if that amount of corruption occurred, and I hope reporters will investigate thoroughly. From what I know now, it appears that reasonable steps to compy with the law were deliberately avoided.
11.6.2008 12:43pm
LN (mail):
Andrew, what did McCain do to comply with the law that Obama didn't? As I said above, the Obama website requested passport numbers, while the McCain campaign didn't. Does that bother you?

How do you know that Ho Chi Minh wasn't bankrolling McCain's campaign?
11.6.2008 12:46pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
LN, McCain accepted public financing, and therefore McCain did not accept and private contributions after the GOP convention. However, the GOP accepted private contributions after the conventions. So, who did what and when is not a simple matter.

The Washington Post reported on October 29 that Obama was accepting untraceable donations. I have seen no reports that the GOP or McCain were doing so too.
11.6.2008 12:58pm
Boonton (mail) (www):
I suggested this on the previous thread, why not simply centralize the donation system with the FEC. Want to donate? Go to the FEC website (or follow a link ont he candidate's site), check off who you want to give money too and the FEC will charge your card and then pass the money to the candidate. There's no conflict of interest between vetting the donar and collecting the money. Alternatively

The other legal issue not be addressed here is who is in charge of complying with the law? The candidate's web site will ask you a bunch of questions such as are you a citizen? Are you using corporate or union money? Are you fronting money for someone else? You are supposed to answer those questions honestly. If you don't, I believe you are commiting the crime, not the candidate.

So, Obama's aunt should not have donated but the obligation is on her to comply with the law not the job of the Obama campaign to screen the donars beyond asking them the 'standard questions'. I don't think there's any need to make a big deal about it....in her case it appears to be more along the lines of speeding rather than a purposeful effort to subvert our system.


The more relevant point is that Obama has established that one can fund a well run campaign off of numerous small donations. I'm a bit surprised that the writers here seem more interested in sniping over what appears to be trivial issues with the process rather than the bigger fact that the whole argument for public financing of campaigns is now almost certainly off the table. Likewise the argument that campaigns would have to choose between public financing or appealing to 'big money' interests is also changed. It seems the 'little money' can easily roll over big money if it wants too.
11.6.2008 1:07pm
Boonton (mail) (www):
"The Washington Post reported on October 29 that Obama was accepting untraceable donations. "

On the contrary, the campaign was allowing people to use prepaid cards to donate but they still had to provide their name and address. This is functionally no different than a person who sends a money order to a campaign by snail mail....there is an advantage in that if the name doesn't check out you can revise the charge on the prepaid card whereas you cannot so easily return a money order or cash that arrives from an unknown address.
11.6.2008 1:14pm
Boonton (mail) (www):
"I have seen no reports that the GOP or McCain were doing so too."

Try looking at the very same article you just cited. the McCain campaign as well got donations from fake names like "A for You" or "Guns for Jesus"
11.6.2008 1:15pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Obama decided to take untraceable donations. Therefore, it's possible that tens of millions of dollars were donated by non-US-citizens overseas, in the guise of many small contributions. We know that people like Gaddafi wanted to do just that. This is not trivial sniping, but rather is a serious issue.
11.6.2008 1:15pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Our surrent system allows billion dollar corporations to spend hundreds of millions promoting their political agenda. How about removing all restrictions on donors, but make all contributions public?
11.6.2008 1:24pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Boonton, there was no verification for foreign addresses such as A. Hitler, Fuhrer Bunker, Berlin, Third Reich.
11.6.2008 1:26pm
Sarcastro (www):
Obama decided to allow untraceable supporters into his cheering throngs. Therefore, it is possible that tens of thousands of Cthullu death-cultists were swelling his crowds, in the guise of many hopeful supporters. We know servants of the Elder Gods like Nyarlathotep want to do just that. This is not trivial sniping, but rather a sanity-blasting horror.
11.6.2008 1:27pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Sarcastro,

I had a seminal role in the creation of the Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu game, so I am fully conversant with Nyarlathotep and you, sir, are no Nyarlathotep. FYI, I also helped write AD&D, and my name appears in the credits for its first edition. Gary Gygax even sent me a gorgeous painted lead dragon as a wedding gift, which I parked on top of our wedding cake. Not to mention computer games and board wargames. Heavy duty grognard I am.
11.6.2008 1:31pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
I'm sorry, of course there should be no more investigative reporting about this. Everything should be hush-up as much as possible. There's no reason to beleive anyone tried to circumvent campaign finance regulations, except maybe the evil McCain campaign. Please forgive me.
11.6.2008 1:36pm
LN (mail):
Andrew, there should definitely be investigative reporting. Let me know when something important is found, and please spare us the "OMG Obama did X" stuff when McCain, Kerry, and Bush did exactly the same thing. And I know you're being sarcastic, but there is actually no reason to believe that the Obama campaign tried to circumvent campaign finance regulations.
11.6.2008 1:46pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Andrew Hyman Simply noting something could have happened is insufficient to start a full scale investigation, or else everything would be investigated always.]
11.6.2008 1:52pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Of course Sarcastro. I urge the Washington Post and all other journalists to ask no more questions about why the Obama campaign decided to accept untraceable donations. Again, I apologize.
11.6.2008 1:54pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Thomas_Holsinger, Maybe Herbert West

Wow. You have me quite well beat. All I do is read/watch stuff. Add to that the B5 Ref yesterday...I bow down.]
11.6.2008 1:55pm
LN (mail):
Andrew Hyman, are you some kind of robot?
Are you also wondering why the McCain campaign decided to accept untraceable donations? Why is this so sinister?
I think it's because the Vietnamese have been plotting for over 3 decades to take over the American government. Senator McCain was a sort of Manchurian candidate, programmed while at the Hanoi Hilton, and funded during 2008 with untraceable donations from Hanoi.
At least, that's what I will think until the Washington Post can prove otherwise.
11.6.2008 1:59pm
Sarcastro (www):
I urge the Washington Post and all other journalists to ask no more questions about why the Obama campaign decided not to investigate the possibility of lesser servitor races in it's crowds. I, too apologize.
11.6.2008 2:03pm
Anderson (mail):
Add to that the B5 Ref yesterday...I bow down.

Me as well.
11.6.2008 2:15pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Getting back to the point:

Professor Adler,

Consider the implications of the Obama campaign's disabling of credit card verification having resulted in widesspread wire fraud as defined in 18 USC 1343, in addition to it being acceptance of millions of dollars in illegal contributions.

I.e., that the Obama for President Campaign constituted a rackeeter-influenced corrupt organization as defined in 18 USC 1961, et seq.

Note that Congress conducted bi-partisan investigations of the Nixon administration's use of criminal means to raise funds for its 1972 re-election campaign, and that Republican Senators and Congressmen led the charge.

Compare that to what Congress does in 2009.

ALL campaign finance and disclosure laws are now dead. The Obama camapaign openly violated them.

And consider the implications of that.
11.6.2008 2:24pm
Sarcastro (www):

resulted in widesspread wire fraud


Can I assume Obama's committed crimes with no evidence too?

Obama's awesomeness is a restricted biological agent, resulting in the violation of 18 USC 175b.

Ie. Obama's campaign is a terrorist organization.

Congress in 2009 will not investigate this, and I am outraged! Terrorism law is dead.

Consider implications.
11.6.2008 2:34pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

Are you also wondering why the McCain campaign decided to accept untraceable donations?



Except that that's a lie. And even if it weren't, it would be an argument for greater accountability, not for going 'gee, I hope they both aren't cheating'.
11.6.2008 2:37pm
JPG:
Here is the list of the 20 greatest contributors to both campaigns as revealed by the French journal Le Monde in its latest issue. Both Obama and McCain benefited from donations coming directly from Switzerland (listed as UBS AG (#13 for McCain, #14 for Obama), it also has been established that Crédit Suisse Group contributed to McCain's campaign with European funds). The American system is believed to be one of the most permissive in this regard (compared to other western democracies), despite the latest attempts to limit foreign influence on politics.

You'll also come to your own conclusions as to the relevance of reported/believed amounts of illegal donations coming from individual contributions, simply by looking at the figures...
11.6.2008 3:13pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Well, let's consider the corruption of this election:

1: Campaign funding:
As Bill Dyer put it over at Hugh Hewitt's site, Obama essentially set up dumpsters all over the world, where people could walk by and drop in unlimited amounts of cash for the Obama campaign. If September he raised $100,000,000 this way (and another $50 million in ways that were probably legal). He deliberately set up his credi card processing so that it would work that way.

It's against the law to accept campaign contributions from foreigners. It's illegal to accept more than $2300 from any one individual, and it's illegal to hide the identities of people who give more the $200. Obama's campaign allowed all three.

2: Vote Fraud:
A: State actions:
Despite being required by HAVA to have a setup for finding fraudulent vote registrations, the Ohio SoS, Jennifer Brunner, admitted that her system couldn't do that.
For the election, she ordered County Registrars not to release the birth dates of voters, making it virtually impossible to figure out if a "voter" was a dead person, or else a valid voter. This despite (or because of) press reports of thousands of dead people voting in previous elections.

There were numerous reports on election day of Republican poll watchers being denied access to watching voting, registration, etc. Actions that were clearly against the law.

B: Campaign actions:
The Obama campaign had campaign workers illegally voting in Ohio, even after they were caught doing it.

C: Other groups
ACORN. Shall we go ever everything it did?

Obama won. Therefore every corrupt action he took to asist in his victory matters.

If millions of dollars in untraceable donations doesn't count as corruption, then the term has lost it's meaning.

If a Secretary of State violating the law in order to enable vote fraud doesn't count as corruption in your book, your book is worthless.

I don't know if this election is more corrupt than Kennedy - Nixon (stealing the votes of IL and Texas is a pretty high bar to hit), but it's got every election since then beat cold ($100,000 in cash in a briefcase is nothing on millions of dollars in dishonest donations. And there's no reason to believe Obama didn't get millions of illegal donations. Less than that wouldn't have been worth the risk).
11.6.2008 3:47pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
holsinger:

there was no verification for foreign addresses such as A. Hitler, Fuhrer Bunker, Berlin, Third Reich. … Consider the implications of the Obama campaign's disabling of credit card verification having resulted in widesspread wire fraud


These issues are addressed in the other thread I cited above. Did you look there? I guess not.

You can lead a horse to water etc.
11.6.2008 3:53pm
Sarcastro (www):
Greg Q's storm of possibilities with no evidence other than a few campaign workers is amazing and so convincing!

I detect no sour grapes at all and am sure these baseless accusations are going places.

President Biden. Get used to saying it now.
11.6.2008 3:54pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
Sarcastro,

If you've been shoving your fingers in your ears and saying "blah, I won't hear you" WRT all the dishonest things Obama and the Democrats have been doing this election, then me including links now wouldn't change your opinion, so I'm not going to waste the time.

Obama is a happy part of the Daley machine in Chicago. He ran a corrupt election campaign because that's what he, and his advisers, know. Your intent to look the other way does not change any of that.
11.6.2008 9:19pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
jukeboxgrad,

Sorry, but Morat20's comments, while technically correct, ignored the actual charges against Obama. As I wrote on my blog, the Obama campaign paid extra to have AVS turned off, and did it so people could use their own credit cards to give under multiple names, and so that people who could not legally donate could donate anyway. That is what turning off AVS gave Obama.

Yes, some people also used the disabled security so they could donate using other people's credit cards (over $1,000,000 returned in September), but that was a very minor part of the fraud. The major fraud was allowing people to make an unlimited number of sub $200 contributions, each using a different, invalid, name and address.

Obama didn't do it for "speed", he did it for the illegal donations. If AVS was turned on, they'd have to give a valid address. And that would have made it easy to catch cheaters.
11.6.2008 9:29pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
BTW, Morat20's claim that the CC company will check the name against the card before sending the money is false. As was demonstrated when one person send 4 donations to Obama, on the same card, using 4 different, invalid, names, and all four charges went through. As in showed up on his CC, not as "pending charges", but as completed charges.

Sorry I missed the thread where Morat20 peddled his lies, but that's what they were.

So, nice try, but no dice.
11.6.2008 9:35pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
greg:

all four charges went through


That's because the bank has your name, which means the donation is recorded under your name, which means the phony name you entered has no consequence whatsoever.
11.7.2008 6:39am
Brett Bellmore:
The chorus of "Neener, neener, neener!" is deafening.

The fraud alleged is NOT that people are defrauding the owners of the cards. The fraud alleged is that people are using fake names at Obama's side of the transaction, in order to violate campaign finance laws. The consequence is that Obama get's money it's illegal for him to accept, because he's made sure people can successfully lie to him about it.

And the Obama campaign went to extra trouble to make sure that he wouldn't know if donors lied about who they were, or where they lived, by shutting down the default checks built into the card processing system.

I don't expect this to amount to anything, because Obama will soon own the Justice department. But it says worlds about how (dis)honest our next President is going to be.
11.7.2008 7:22am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
brett:

And the Obama campaign went to extra trouble to make sure that he wouldn't know if donors lied about who they were, or where they lived, by shutting down the default checks built into the card processing system.


I realize that you've got your fingers stuck in your ears, and you're going to ignore the facts no matter how many times they are repeated.

Obama does indeed know "who they were" and "where they lived," because the bank has that information about you, and provides that information to Obama when he collects the money from the bank. So verification of your identity still occurs. It just happens at a different point in the process. So the phony name you entered has this much consequence or importance: none whatsoever.
11.7.2008 8:13am
TruthInAdvertising:
"1: Campaign funding:
As Bill Dyer put it over at Hugh Hewitt's site, Obama essentially set up dumpsters all over the world, where people could walk by and drop in unlimited amounts of cash for the Obama campaign. If September he raised $100,000,000 this way (and another $50 million in ways that were probably legal). He deliberately set up his credi card processing so that it would work that way. "

Any proof of this claim?
11.7.2008 11:07am
guest:
Obama paid higher processing rates by not using immediate address verification -- this is correct. Having run several online stores, I know that merchants get charged lower rates when they process the full billing address with the initial credit card transaction.

However, since Obama already had a lot of money in the bank, and he wasn't responsible for providing any goods in exchange for this money, he didn't really need the extra security. Paying an extra fraction of a percent on each transaction means very little when you're taking in a huge volume of pure donations. And skipping this check does indeed speed up the process, for two key reasons: 1) customers will often give up if their billing address is entered incorrectly and they get rejected, and 2) even a rejected transaction still reserves funds on the customer's account, often for up to 48 hours, which means future attempted transactions are less likely to go through, even after the billing address has been corrected. This latter problem really upsets customers, and could probably have cost Obama both votes and support if his campaign essentially put a "freeze" on funds in donor accounts without confirming a charge. And both of these problems are far more likely to occur over a large number of lower- and middle-income donors (with more-frequently changing addresses and lower credit limits).

Furthermore, the billing name generally can't be verified on these transactions anyway -- at least in my experience, the only automated check at the time of the transaction was on the billing address. And in order to satisfy the FEC, the campaign has to audit these transactions later anyway using the official account names and addresses on the end-of-period statements from the credit card companies. It's quite plausible, in a pure business sense, that the benefits of taking in more upfront simply outweighed the fees and refunds incurred later.

I understand the concerns about this issue, but so far we have zero evidence that any widespread illegitimate transactions actually occurred -- and we have clear indications (from the articles linked previously) that the FEC has already required the campaign to weed out and refund problem transactions. I suspect this will continue as the most recent transactions show up on statements from the credit card companies and are likewise analyzed. Could the process be better? Sure, and I'm sure that rules will be changed to take this new form of internet campaign finance into account. But let's not let premature conclusions and hunches color our perception of the basic facts of the matter, which, as I have hopefully demonstrated, are still very far from suggesting any systematic impropriety took place.
11.7.2008 12:41pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
in order to satisfy the FEC, the campaign has to audit these transactions later anyway using the official account names and addresses on the end-of-period statements from the credit card companies


I just want to highlight this key statement you made. It's the part certain people seem unable to grasp.
11.7.2008 2:51pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
jukeboxgrad,

That's because the bank has your name, which means the donation is recorded under your name, which means the phony name you entered has no consequence whatsoever.

Jukie, you can lie about this as much as you want, I'm not going to let you get away with it.

Ace has a nice roundup of examples proving that the Obama Campaign took money from anyone, under any name and address, with no verification at all. The banks did not verify the information, and did not send corrected information back to the Obama campaign.

By 1: turning off all verification, 2: refusing to release the names of their under $200 donors, and 3: accepting pre-paid credit cards for donations (which are, for all intents and purposes, untraceable), teh Obama campaign deliberately made it possible for people to donate as much as they wanted, in violation of the laws limiting donations, and in violation of the laws requiring that donors be identified.

The Obama campaign set up dumpsters all over the world, and invited anyone and everyone to throw money into them for the Obama campaign. Their fundraising was the most corrupt in the history of the US.
11.7.2008 7:03pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
guest,

You clearly know something of what you're talking about. Which therefore takes you out of the "innocent dupe" category, and marks you as actively dishonest, instead.

Paying an extra fraction of a percent on each transaction means very little when you're taking in a huge volume of pure donations.

That's exactly backwards. Paying an extra .5% on $100,000,000 is five hundred thousand dollars lost to the campaign. paying it on $1,000 would only be $50. They took in $100,000,000 online just in September. Turning off AVS cost them a lot of money.

customers will often give up if their billing address is entered incorrectly and they get rejected

The campaign is legally required to save the correct name and address of every donor. Forcing them to get the address right is a feature, not a bug.

At least, it is if you're running an honest campaign.

Furthermore, the billing name generally can't be verified on these transactions anyway -- at least in my experience, the only automated check at the time of the transaction was on the billing address.

True, but irrelevant. If you force them to give the correct address, you put a huge crimp in fraudulent donations ($50,000 coming from one address would trigger an investigation. $50,000 coming from 300 different fraudulent address can come in completely below the radar.

And in order to satisfy the FEC, the campaign has to audit these transactions later anyway using the official account names and addresses on the end-of-period statements from the credit card companies.

False, false, false.

The New York Times briefly covered this:
Someone identifying himself as “Jockim Alberton,” from 1581 Leroy Avenue in Wilmington, Del., began giving to Mr. Obama last November, contributing $10 and $25 at a time for a total of $445 through the end of February.

The only problem? There is no Leroy Avenue in Wilmington. And Jockim Alberton, who listed his employer and occupation as “Fdsa Fdsa,” does not show up in a search of public records.

An analysis of campaign finance records by The New York Times this week found nearly 3,000 donations to Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, from more than a dozen people with apparently fictitious donor information. The contributions represent a tiny fraction of the record $450 million Mr. Obama has raised. But the questionable donations — some donors were listed simply with gibberish for their names — raise concerns about whether the Obama campaign is adequately vetting its unprecedented flood of donors.

So much for "getting the correct information from the CC companies." If they'd done that, they wouldn't have so much money received by "Dodad Pro", "Adolf Hitler", etc.

Lousy try, the facts are entirely against you.
11.7.2008 7:20pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
refusing to release the names of their under $200 donors


From the article you cited:

Federal candidates are not required to itemize such contributions to the F.E.C. unless the donor’s cumulative total adds up to more than $200. Roughly 70 percent of these contributions to Mr. Obama are not reported, compared with more than 75 percent of Mr. McCain’s.


In other words, the problem you just described is worse for McCain than it is for Obama.

Your other claims are similarly divorced from reality.

Ace has a nice roundup of examples proving that the Obama Campaign took money from anyone, under any name and address, with no verification at all. The banks did not verify the information, and did not send corrected information back to the Obama campaign.


The examples via Ace and others only prove that a phony name was accepted via the web site. They do not prove that "the banks did not verify the information, and did not send corrected information back to the Obama campaign."
11.8.2008 10:42am
guest:
Thanks for the replies.

I fully understand the Obama web site was accepting donations from gibberish donors. However, from the articles linked here, it is also fairly clear that they have eventually refunded such donations -- after they have received the statements from the credit card company and verified that the donor's name and address weren't proper. This happens several months after the original donation goes through, perhaps longer if the donation volume is quite large. This strategy would be clearly unacceptable for any business that was providing a good or service upfront; however, for a political campaign accepting donations with lots of cash already on hand, it can work. Even if it costs the campaign some money in the long run, the accessibility of such a system could win over many first-time or previously apolitical donors (and thus voters).

Have some bogus donations slipped through the cracks in earlier periods? From Greg Q's NY Times article quoted above, it appears so, but even that article says the gibberish donations "represent a tiny fraction" of the total amount so far, and it concludes only that concern has been raised about the matter, not that any widespread corruption has actually occurred.

I'm not trying to argue that there was no such corruption; I'm just trying to explain there is indeed a benefit to the donation procedure employed by the Obama campaign that doesn't involve massive corruption, and emphasize that there are no facts (yet) which indicate widespread corruption took place. Given that, I'm going to reserve my judgment. Let's continue the investigation as both campaigns continue to work with the FEC, and also let's push for more reform of the whole outdated system. But remember, neither of those goals are advanced by being the first kids on the block to claim historic corruption without appropriate evidence!
11.10.2008 5:48pm