The Federal Election Commission has backed the fundraising strategies employed by Barack Obama during the 2012 election cycle, rejecting a complaint that charged Obama’s organization broke the law by “soliciting, processing, accepting and confirming contributions from foreign nationals and non-U.S. citizens.”
In a letter from General Counsel Anthony Herman and Assistant General Counsel Mark Shonkwiler, the FEC officials said they found “no reason” to believe that the Obama for America campaign organization violated federal law by apparently allowing foreigners to donate to the campaign.
“Accordingly … the commission closed the file in this matter,” the letter said.
The complaint sent to the FEC in Washington cited the Obama for America campaign and treasurer Martin H. Nesbitt. It was signed by Joseph Farah, founder and CEO of WND.com, which had been running a series of stories about the controversy.
The complaint alleged the Obama campaign systematically violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and the regulations of the FEC by “soliciting, processing, accepting and confirming contributions from foreign nationals and non-U.S. citizens” in contravention of federal law.
The complaint argued it is unlawful for a foreign national to directly or indirectly make a contribution of money or to promise a contribution of money in connection with a federal, state or local election.
It also is illegal for a person to accept or receive such a contribution.
“Notwithstanding the clear legal prohibitions against soliciting and accepting foreign contributions, the Obama campaign has repeatedly and willfully ignored the law in order to amass a vast campaign war chest, primarily of non-disclosed donors,” the complaint stated.
It was documented that a donor using the name “Osama bin Laden” used a Pakistani proxy server to run a grassroots fundraising page titled “Fatwa: Foreign Donations” on Obama’s campaign website, which openly sought foreign donations.
“Bin Laden’s” foreign donors page was not removed by the Obama campaign after a WND report prior to the election reported the same “bin Laden” account had successfully donated twice to Obama’s presidential re-election campaign. After the WND report, one of the donations was officially returned while another was listed as pending.
The “bin Laden” foreign donors page was still active even after “bin Laden” sent an email to the Obama campaign alerting it to the page.
The email concerned a campaign competition for supporters who had donated $3 to meet President Obama on Election Day. “Bin Laden” had donated the $3 for the competition and had asked the campaign in the email whether he could bring wanted al-Qaida leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri as a guest. The email also provided a link to “bin Laden’s” grassroots page seeking foreign donations.
“Bin Laden’s” page was set up by WND staff as a test after media reports described the ability of foreigners to donate to the Obama campaign.
The test was also in response to a non-profit group’s report alleging Obama’s campaign had solicited foreigners for political donations through its social media websites.
The FEC complaint notes that stories about Obama’s acceptance of donations from foreigners arose during the 2008 election, when Newsweek, the Washington Post and ABC News all cited such claims.
Regarding the campaign, the complaint said, “there have been increasing published reports of individuals making contributions to the Obama campaign using foreign names and/or addresses, foreign IP addresses and many other serious breaches of security that would have prevented such contributions. ”
The FEC said, however, that OFA “denies that it knowingly solicited, accepted, or received prohibited contributions from foreign nationals.”
“OFA also states that it either rejected or refunded all of the contributions referenced in the complaint,” the commission said.
That conclusion came even though a report by the Government Accountability Institute at the time noted “foreign contributors could likely make contributions because OFA’s website failed to use industry standard, anti-fraud credit card security measures when processing contributions.”
The FEC noted that OFA claimed it didn’t “know” that contributions were coming from illegal sources, and the commission said “‘the mere presence’ of a contribution received from a foreign address … ‘does not establish reason to believe’” wrongdoing.
Here, the FEC said, there was evidence that the Obama campaign made “reasonable inquiries” about the illegal donations.
The government agency simply ignored evidence that Obama solicited donations from foreigners by sending requests for financial help to what apparently were foreign emails.
“Under these circumstances, to conserve commission resources, the commission dismissed the allegation that OFA violated [the law] by soliciting contributions from foreign nationals.”
Among the transactions over which the complaint was filed was a $15 donation from “Osama bin Laden” of 911 Jihad Way, Abbottabad, Calif. His occupation was listed as deceased terror chief and his employer was al-Qaida.
The complaint explained: “The contribution from this source, with this information, to the Obama campaign was accepted and the disposable credit card was charged the amount of $15.00. We then conducted the same transaction with the Romney for President campaign. The attempted contribution was rejected immediately.”
The Obama campaign responded that it had tried to verify some donations that looked suspicious and refunded some later.