Despite significant right-wing hype, a new report by the conservative Government Accountability Institute (GAI) on the potential for foreign nationals to illegally contribute to U.S. political campaigns does not actually find any evidence of foreign nationals successfully donating to the Obama campaign. Still, a wide array of conservative and mainstream publications have incorrectly reported that the report documents foreign donors giving to the President’s re-election.
The GAI (not to be confused with the Government Accountability Office) details in its report America the Vulnerable: Are Foreign and Fraudulent Online Campaign Contributions Influencing U.S. Elections? that because candidates now raise money on the Internet and the Internet allows foreigners to access U.S. websites, it is easier than ever for non-Americans in foreign countries to donate to political candidates. The Daily Beast published a shorter version of the report, titled “The Illegal-Donor Loophole“. The authors note that a wide variety of candidates — Democrats and Republicans — face this concern.
The report notes:
Using a collection of online research tools, the Government Accountability Institute analyzed a portion of the foreign links that lead to the Obama campaign website, my.barackobama.com. The Institute found a wide variety of instances in which apparent foreign nationals either received solicitation emails or posted links to my.barackobama.com.
GAI then notes nine examples of foreign bloggers and bloggers in foreign countries — who may or may not be U.S. citizens — who have posted email solicitations or links to a “donate to Obama” page on their blogs. Only one, a Norwegian blogger named Gaupefot, claims to have actually donated to Obama. The blogger’s unverified claim, written in Norwegian, also appears to claim that the CIA funds the Norwegian Labour Party.
The GAI also notes that people from other countries often visit campaign websites and that an array of cyber-squatters have purchased domains that sound like political websites and link them often to legitimate campaign websites. These are even more often visited by users outside of the United States. It also claims that because Obama’s campaign site — and 211 Members of Congress — use a verification system for credit card contributions that does not include asking for a three-digit security code (Card Verification Value), these sites are potentially at greater risk for fraud.