In 2008, the president’s campaign-finance operation was highly suspect.
The media lionized Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for running as smoothly (and stylishly) as a Swiss watch. “We love things that are smart,” explained Time’s Mark Halperin, later the co-author of a best-selling book about the 2008 race, Game Change. At least Halperin had the courage also to deplore the pro-Obama tilt of the media during the campaign. At a post-election Politico/University of Southern California conference in 2008, he called it “the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq War. It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama bias.”
Well, only now are we learning that things weren’t quite as “smart” as we were led to believe. Yesterday, it was reported the Federal Election Commission unanimously found that the 2008 Obama campaign had failed to properly report some $2 million in last-minute contributions. The campaign could still have to pay fines or face other penalties. (The audit for the 2008 John McCain campaign hasn’t yet been completed.)
Politico reports that the Obama campaign failed to respond to FEC inquires about whether its failure to report the donations was due to problems with its data-processing systems. Indeed, Team Obama has often been reticent in response to questions about its donor-identification procedures. In 2008, John McCain’s campaign publicly disclosed the identities of its entire donor base, including those contributing under $200, whose names are not legally required to be disclosed. But it was different over in Obamaworld. “We asked both campaigns for more information on small donors,” Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the liberal Center for Responsive Politics, told Newsmax. “The Obama campaign never responded.”
Because of its large number of small donations, the Obama campaign wound up not disclosing the donor names for about half of the $800 million it raised in 2008. Indeed, the Washington Post reported that it went so far as to turn off the Address Verification System (a credit-card verification protocol) on its website. That program would have prevented the campaign from accepting contributions by citizens of foreign countries — accepting such donations is a violation of federal law. The decision to abandon filters had consequences — an FEC inquiry forced the campaign to refund $31,110 to two Palestinian brothers in the Gaza Strip who had bought T-shirts from the campaign’s online store in small quantities. The Obama campaign said it had been unaware of any problems and always corrected errors when they were brought to its attention.
They said much the same thing after it was revealed in late 2008 that FEC analysts had written more than a dozen letters to the campaign flagging the names of hundreds of contributors for whom the Obama campaign either hadn’t supplied sufficient information or whose donations exceeded legal limits.
An even more disturbing issue arose when the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported in August 2008 that Obama’s campaign had paid $832,000 to Citizens Services Inc., a subsidiary of ACORN, the infamous liberal advocacy group known for voter-registration fraud, which, in the 1990s, employed Barack Obama as a trainer and as its lawyer in a key voting case. ACORN declared bankruptcy in 2010 after a video sting operation showed some of its employees offering career advice to a couple posing as a prostitute and her pimp.