As mentioned in the stately New York Times… a number of clearly fictitious names (e.g., “Jgtj Jfggjjfgj”) have been discovered in the rolls of Obama campaign donors.
Questions raised: Evidence of coordinated misbehavior, or simple negligence in vetting the names? Big deal, or teapot-tempest? Am I wrong for being slightly amused at seeing contributors with names like “Doodad Pro” appear in a serious NYT article? Could “Jgtj Jfggjjfgj” simply be Welsh? Am I breaking “Bricker’s Law” by creating this OP, even though I’m an Obama supporter?
When you say “coordinate misbehvavior,” by whom do you mean? The first thing I thought of was (a) Republican supporter(s) doing this to raise questions and suspicion. Why would anyone truly supportive of the Obama campaign do this? Even if they wanted to donate more than the legal limit, there were better ways to do than in a way destined to draw suspicion to the donation.
I read this story this morning, and my guess is that a lot of it is people who thought “oh, I’m giving online, I don’t have to give my real name.” There may be more they can do in terms of vetting and given their reliance on the Internet it should be a higher priority. I don’t know how quickly they’re moving to return the money, either, compared to other campaigns with similar issues. Some of the donors may be trying to break the law. It’s not the campaign’s responsibility to keep that from happening, but it’s incumbent on them to respond to it and return any money that isn’t above board. I guess this is going to be a continuing issue as more people donate online.
“Jgtj Jfggjjfgj” sounds like the sort of thing people would use to fill out an online form where they don’t want to be bothered to fill in their real name (or they want to stay anonymous). I’ve done similar things when signing up for websites where there is no real value in providing my real name or I don’t trust the company I’m dealing with (typically paired with a temporary or non-existent email address).
If people are donating small amounts online it makes sense that this would happen quite often, without it necessarily implying a willful thwarting of the laws (donating too much, not being allowed to donate (can non-citizens directly contribute to presidential candidates?), etc). On the other hand, it would make actual willful thwarting of the law difficult to capture. This is a very interesting problem brought to us by new technology - the clash of reporting laws and the ease of instigating these sorts of transactions.
I think what you fail to grasp (understandably, since the NYT article curiously fails to mention the more egregious examples of alleged misconduct) is that this isn’t just individual small donors putting in different fake names for donations under the limit. Rather, it’s the same name being used for aggregates well in excess of the individual donor limit. For example, “Doodad Pro” allegedly gave a total of $19,500, and it’s unlikely that 786 individual donors hit upon that particular pseudonym independently. (see, e.g.,http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/archive/s_591519.html for slightly more info).
The notion that Republicans are behind these donations to Obama, which total many thousands of dollars, is fairly comical. If that is the first thing that springs to your mind (again, understanding that the NYT article considerably understates the allegations), you may want to pause for thought and consider whether you are too emotionally involved in this election (or your chosen candidate).
The desperation is palpable. Sinajion has a dumb thread about whether female workers are being paid less in the Obama campaign. Now We have one dreaming up a donor scandal. Is Rush a member here now? Could one of them be Hannity?
This APPEARS to show a violation of campaign finance laws. We prosecute people for hiding their donations, pushing cash through various sources, etc. Since a lot of people think that donations = influence, it IS a big deal when the voters can’t tell who has bought a particular candidate.
However, I personally don’t think the Obama campaign is guilty of committing any crimes, though they may be guilty of not doing a good job of keeping their DB clean for reporting purposes.
It does appear that some of the donors to Obama may have violated campaign finance laws.
Or you might want to ask yourself if it is likely that someone with the wherewithal to donate $19,500 wouldn’t (a) know records are kept even of internet donations and the same name on donations over the limit would raise a red flag; and (b) be able to come up with a less flag-raising way to skirt the limits law – you know, like even several made-up names.
I saw the reports of the larger amounts and had many thoughts about it. In one scenario, donating $19,000, if it was a deliberate strategy, is pennies to an operative or rabble-rouser who’s trying to plant seeds of suspicion, manipulate the system and create a negative impression. Hell, ward heelers used to give out paper bags with more money than that in them in a day.
At this point, nobody knows (including both of us) what’s going on but can you say definitely it wasn’t a Republican supporter?
And, please, the repeated canard of “too emotionally involved” in response to every opinion you don’t agree with or those in support Obama is getting awfully tiresome. Just refute the assertion, if you can, and leave it at that.
And I agree with Algher that whoever is responsible Democratic- or Republican-leaning has violated the law.
Another point - people will use a fake name because they do not want to be identified as an Obama supporter.
e.g. This could be someone in the military with a hard-core pro-McCain commanding officer.
Before the ease of use of places like www.opensecrets.org you could safely donate and never worry about being asked about it. The donation rolls were hard to find and harder to search. Now, however, your support of candidates in excess of a certain amoung ($250?) is recorded and available for all of your neighbors to see.
I paid $250 to go to a private party in Malibu years ago when Pat Buchanan was running. A friend of mine was hosting, and it was a fun way to meet Pat and hang out drinking fine wine at the beach. I thought nothing of it. However, that donation is now visible in a search, which could hurt me with some people. This is especially true since I rarely make donations to political campaigns. My public record shows money to Pat ONLY. Does that truly reflect my beliefs? Nope. Will others judge my by it? Yep. Would I consider hiding a donation? Sure - but I don’t feel like getting popped by the Feds when they do a search on the credit card number used for an online donation.
Given the relatively small total of problematic donations, I’m inclined to believe it’s people who would rather donate anonymously and tried to do so given the online nature of the transaction.
In the short term, I’m somewhat mollified by the notion that the Obama campaign can’t tell either (barring an Octoberly Surprising game-changing secret memo or something). In the long term, however, it’s scary because while the Internet is a great vehicle for grass roots outreach, it’s also a great potential for fraud in the way you’re describing.
Oh, if these are online donations, wouldn’t there be traces of the original CC, PayPal, or at least IP addresses?
How do you make a truly anonymous online donation? Does the Obama campaign accept something besides credit and debit cards and PayPal, all of which require a user with a real name? It’s not like you can pry open your computer and dump in a satchel of cash.
First of all, if the money is donated online, it has to be done via credit card, online check, debit card or paypal.
For it to get to the Obama campaign, the actual name of the person must be given before a bank or financial institution will agree to release the money. So fictitious names cannot really donate online.
The Obama campaign verifies the identity of every donor before the donated amount becomes part of campaign funds. All others are held until actual donors can be verified. In the event that they are unable to verify the identity of the giver, the donation is held in a separate account until it can be returned.
The McCain campaign has been throwing out stuff from all directions in the hope that something will stick. This was expected, and the Obama campaign has people who will deal with it.
If I wanted to skirt the campaign finance laws to give more money than I’m allowed to a political campaign, I’d dig up a list of the top 50 first names and the top 50 last names in America and combine them in various ways. So you’d see donations coming in from “John Smith” and “Mary Anderson” and “Michael Jones”. I wouldn’t just randomly pound on my keyboard to come up with names that would be easily red-flagged. If, however, I had decided to pass on five bucks on a whim but was annoyed with websites asking me for my name, I might just fill in the forms with jjjgjggj or whatever. So this is probably folks donating legal amounts, and just slacking on the bookkeeping.