Is foreign money infiltrating American politics through insecure online donations to Barack Obama? That's one question pondered in a report published Monday but quickly denied by the Obama campaign.
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The study was conducted by the Government Accountability Institute, a research group run by conservative author, strategist and researcher Peter Schweizer. An 109-page examination of "fraudulent and foreign online campaign contributions," it points out three ways in which the Obama campaign may be receiving foreign funds, which is illegal.
First, the report, titled "America the Vulnerable," claims the Obama campaign "lacks the industry-standard level of credit card security for donations," but "uses it for merchandise purchases" on the campaign store. Donors on the official Obama site don't need to include their credit card security number, the three- or four-digit code found on every card.
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The Obama campaign previously claimed it doesn't need that code -- called the CVV -- because "they are able to vet contributions on the back end using sophisticated techniques that it doesn’t disclose," claims the report (the Obama campaign since said it uses an Address Verification System to verify credit cards).
Second, the report highlights Obama.com, a domain that's not owned by the Obama campaign but points to a campaign donation page. According to the GAI, a majority of traffic to that site has come from abroad:
"In 2008, Obama.com was purchased by an Obama fundraiser living in Shanghai, China, whose business is heavily dependent on relationships with Chinese state-run television and other state-owned entities. According to industry leading web analytics site Markosweb, an anonymously registered redirect site (Obama.com) features 68% foreign traffic. Starting in December 2011, the site was linked to a specific donation page on the official BarackObama.com campaign website for ten months. The page loaded a tracking number, 634930, into a space on the website labeled "who encouraged you to make this donation." That tracking number is embedded in the source code for Obama.com and is associated with the Obama Victory Fund. In early September 2012, the page began redirecting to the standard Obama Victory Fund donation page."
The GAI report also noted several occasions where foreigners have received Obama donation pitches, but doesn't confirm those foreigners were actually able to donate.
GAI's report also examines the Romney campaign, stating the following:
"About 11.9% of the Romney campaign’s Internet traffic comes from foreign sources. Examining over 100,000 backlinks on the Internet that link to the Romney campaign’s webpage, approximately 12.8% of those are from foreign sources, including foreign language news sites and blogs."
However, the report isn't as accusatory toward the Romney campaign as it is of the Obama campaign.
The Obama campaign's response? A Monday afternoon blog post explaining that the campaign screens for foreign IP addresses and requires a copy of a valid passport from a contributor identified as valid but donating from abroad.
It also dismisses the GAI as having a right-wing agenda and claims the campaign "does not accept donations from foreign nationals or any other ineligible individual."
"OFA has strong and rigorous safeguards in place to ensure our donors are eligible and that our fundraising efforts comply with all U.S. laws and regulations," reads the post. "While no campaign can control who visits their websites, OFA is in no way directing solicitations to foreign nationals nor knowingly seeking foreign contributions -- that is the legal standard."
Read the full GAI report for yourself below:
This story originally published on Mashable here.