WaPo Puts Obama's Sleazy Online-Donor Security Avoidance on Page...Two?

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the Obama campaign confirmed that it’s "allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity." Why is this story not on Page One? (It’s in small print on the Post’s home page: "Obama Accepting Untraceable Prepaid Credit Cards.") Then there’s this nugget, buried in paragraphs nine and ten, about what spurred the Post story by reporter Matthew Mosk:

The Obama team's disclosures came in response to questions from The Washington Post about the case of Mary T. Biskup, a retired insurance manager from Manchester, Mo., who turned up on Obama's FEC reports as having donated $174,800 to the campaign. Contributors are limited to giving $2,300 for the general election.

Biskup, who had scores of Obama contributions attributed to her, said in an interview that she never donated to the candidate. "That's an error," she said. Moreover, she added, her credit card was never billed for the donations, meaning someone appropriated her name and made the contributions with another card.

Mosk first reported on the Biskup mess-up more than a week ago, on October 21. Why did it take the Post a week for the newspaper to put this story in play? Instead of putting this story on page one, the Post is highlighting two Amy Goldstein articles on the candidates' health care plans, which could have run on any day of the week.

Despite the inside-the-paper placement, the Post deserves some credit for some digging on this story, but on the other hand, it could be argued that this doesn't need to be praised, because this is what consumers expect the press to do. What the press really seems to hate to do right now is acknowledge in any direct way that the McCain-Palin campaign can't help but look like the political-reform ticket when compared to Obama's sleazy security-disabling procedures. 

Here's more meat from the Mosk story:

Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.

The Obama organization said its extensive review has ensured that the campaign has refunded any improper contributions, and noted that Federal Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of donations.

In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for Obama's accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro. Those revelations prompted conservative bloggers to further test Obama's finance vetting by giving money using the kind of prepaid cards that can be bought at a drugstore and cannot be traced to a donor.

The problem with such cards, campaign finance lawyers said, is that they make it impossible to tell whether foreign nationals, donors who have exceeded the limits, government contractors or others who are barred from giving to a federal campaign are making contributions.

"They have opened the floodgates to all this money coming in," said Sean Cairncross, chief counsel to the Republican National Committee. "I think they've made the determination that whatever money they have to refund on the back end doesn't outweigh the benefit of taking all this money upfront."

The Obama campaign has shattered presidential fundraising records, in part by capitalizing on the ease of online giving. Of the $150 million the senator from Illinois raised in September, nearly $100 million came in over the Internet.

It's interesting that Mosk would acknowledge that conservative bloggers were the ones who tested Obama's online donation security, and not the "mainstream" media. Remember this when the media elites complain that the bloggers would have nothing to write about without all their "objective" reporting.

It's mind-boggling that journalists would see Obama's mind-boggling $150 million haul in September, and not immediately raise questions about it. For the most part, the number was immediately greeted as another impressive sign of the Obama juggernaut's momentum.

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Tim Graham's picture