Obama Fake Contributions and Wire Fraud
Megan McArdle and Mark Kleiman go round and round on recent National Journal and NYT reports that the Obama campaign was routinely accepting credit card donations from fake donors while the McCain campaign was rejecting them automatically using simple software applications. Kleiman points out that the reporters in question were technically committing wire fraud, Megan’s appalled at the suggestion of prosecuting reporters for getting at the truth, Kleiman was outraged at the suggestion that he was suggesting actual prosecution when he was merely suggesting that the reporters not report the story since they were technically violating the law with their investigative methods, which Megan doesn’t think much better.
When your candidate is caught violating basic financial prosecuting standards, standards which should, if anything, be stricter for politicians, the correct response is not to point out that uncovering this problem involved technically committed a crime. The correct response is “This is terrible. What is the campaign going to do to fix this?”
If it is possible to commit fraud on Obama’s website, then a citizen who uncovers this should be applauded, not least by the Obama campaign, which at least putatively does not want to violate campaign finance standards, nor make it easy for criminals to misuse someone’s credit card.
As this story from the National Journal makes clear, the candidate that Professor Kleiman and I both support seems to have systematically weaker protections against fraud than McCain. That is worrying. In the end, I don’t think it has made much difference; Obama isn’t winning because of his massive pocketbook, but because the Republicans got caught in bed with a naked financial crisis. But the principle is rather important.
Indeed. As Megan points out, there’s no direct evidence here as to why the Obama campaign was so lax. If it was intentional, it could have been maliciously made at a high level or made out of laziness at a low level; if unintentional, it could have happened in a variety of complicated ways. But noting the issue is worthwhile.
Of course, this once again serves to demonstrate the futility of the campaign finance regulation system. Any measures put in place will create loopholes and the remedy is always post-hoc.