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Friday, October 12, 2012

A Law Unto Himself

Michael Barone
Neither the president nor his campaign cares to follow the rule of law.

‘The Illegal-Donor Loophole” is the headline of a Daily Beast story by Peter Schweizer, of the conservative Government Accountability Institute, and Peter Boyer, former reporter at The New Yorker and the New York Times.

The article tells how Obama.com, a website owned by an Obama fundraiser who lives in China but has visited the Obama White House eleven times, sends solicitations mostly to foreign e-mail addresses and links to the donation page on the Obama campaign website.

The Obama website, unlike those of most campaigns, doesn’t ask for the three- or four-digit credit-card verification number. That makes it easier for donors to use fictitious names and addresses to send in money.

Campaigns aren’t allowed to accept donations from foreigners. But it looks like the Obama campaign has made it easier for them to slip money in. How much foreign money has come into the Obama campaign? Schweizer and Boyer say there’s no way to know.

The campaign — as my former boss, pollster Peter Hart, likes to say — always reflects the candidate. A campaign willing to skirt the law or abet violations of it reflects a candidate who, as president, has been doing the same thing.

Examples abound. Take the WARN Act, which requires employers to give a 60-day notice of layoffs. It was sponsored and passed by Democrats.

The WARN Act requires defense contractors to give notice on November 2 of layoffs that will be necessary on January 3, when the sequestration law requires big cutbacks in defense spending.

The administration has asked companies not to send out the notices. And it has promised to pay companies’ WARN Act fines. Why the solicitude? The warnings could cost Obama Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.

When did Congress give presidents the power to suspend operation of this law? What law authorizes the government to pay the fines of those who violate the law?

Or consider the welfare waivers that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gives to states that want to relax work requirements. Democratic blogger Mickey Kaus makes a strong case that this violates clear language in the welfare-reform act signed by Bill Clinton in 1996.

If Kaus is right, Sebelius and Obama are brazenly rewriting the law — a law that was one of the most successful reforms of the last two decades.

Read the full column

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