Updated 3:45 pm ET
A new report by the privately funded Government Accountability Institute concludes that online safeguards against fraudulent contributions are not being employed by many federal campaigns, including President Obama’s.
The report, which you can find here, notes that the Obama campaign does not employ the commonly used Credit Verification Value, or CVV – the set of three or four numbers found on a credit card that ensure the person using the card has it in his or her possession.
The report indirectly suggests, but does not specifically allege, that this could lead to foreign donations to the campaign. However, the report does not say exactly how failure to use CVV would increase foreign donations, other than that it could increase illicit donations generally.
According to the report, the Obama campaign claims that it has its own system for vetting donations. The report does not disprove this, though it suggests the claim is suspicious because the campaign does use CVV for sales of merchandise on its website. The report also notes that failing to use CVV increases the campaign’s transaction costs by millions of dollars.
What’s more, the report again indirectly suggests, but does not specifically allege, that the Obama campaign subtly encourages foreign donations through the use of social media, email solicitations, and third party websites that link to the official campaign website. But the report does not provide specific evidence – like an internal campaign document – that proves the Obama campaign is intentionally trying to drum up foreign donations.
According to the report, nearly half of Congress also fails to use CVV. The Romney campaign does use the CVV protocol for donations on its website.
The Government Accounting Institute bills itself as nonpartisan, though most or all of its board appears to lean conservative. Nevertheless, its investigations have targeted Republicans as well as Democrats, including a recent piece revealing some of Mitt Romney’s hidden big-ticket donors, known as “bundlers.”
The Obama campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE: The Obama campaign responded this afternoon with a statement, which included the following:
OFA does not accept donations from foreign nationals or any other ineligible individual—and the campaign voluntarily goes above and beyond Federal Election Commitments to ensure the integrity of fundraising efforts.
Here’s how we do that:
- All credit card contributions are processed using AN Address Verification System (AVS) to ensure their legitimacy.
- OFA invests significant resources into a manual process to review any transaction that’s been flagged by the campaign’s credit card processor’s fraud detection services.
- Though not required by law, OFA requires a copy of a valid passport from any contributor who has been affirmed as eligible but donates with a mailing address outside the U.S. If they do not offer in one in a timely manner, the donation is returned.
- OFA screens all online credit card contributions that originate from a foreign IP address and, if any questions arise regarding the contributor’s U.S. citizenship, the campaign requests proof of a current and valid U.S. passport in order to be in compliance with the FEC’s safe harbor guidelines.
The phrases in bold are as they appear in the statement.