Obama's Sleazy Online Donations: Still Just Internet Rumors at the NYT

The Obama campaign is ignoring basic security measures to stop illegal donations, but the scandal has yet to make the newspaper.

Heard anything about Barack Obama's sleazy online fundraising, where thanks to purposely lax security measures his site is able to receive untraceable donations from obviously fake names? Not if you've been reading the New York Times.

The Washington Post has run two stories, most recently on Wednesday: "Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations: Contributions Reviewed After Deposits." Post reporter Matthew Mosk explained how the Obama campaign isn't taking the most basic steps to ensure the validity of the online donations made to the campaign:

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.

Those two Post stories mark a Woodward-and-Bernstein level of intensity compared to the Times' treatment. A search indicates that the Times has published zero stories on recent revelations concerning the Obama campaign's avoidance of basic security measures to stop illegal contributions. The paper has posted a couple of desultory stories online: "Obama's Easy Credit" by Tobin Harshaw on the nytimes.com Opinionator Blog October 29, and an October 23 posting by reporter Michael Luo on the "Caucus" blog, "Donor Patrol: Obama's Online Site Accepts More Fakes."

The last time the paper addressed the issue of dubious Obama donations at all was apparently this October 10 story about donations under fake names. But that story didn't touch the new revelations about the campaign's complete lack of online security measures. Since then, the Times has gushed over Obama's record-setting donations from September without questioning how all that money was collected.

From Luo's October 23 blog item:

Erika Franzi, a 36-year-old mother of four, had been following recent news reports examining how people using obviously fake names had made thousands of dollars in contributions to Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign without being detected.

So this afternoon, sitting in her family room at her home in Weaverville, N.C., while her two-year-old was watching "Sesame Street," Ms. Franzi got on her laptop to conduct an experiment. She used her debit card to make a $15 donation to Mr. Obama's campaign.

Ms. Franzi, who described herself as conservative and preferring Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama, used the name "Della Ware" and entered an address of 12345 No Way in Far Far Away, DE 78954. Under employer, she listed: Americans Against Obama; for occupation, she typed in: Founder.

To her surprise, she said, her contribution went through in "fewer than three seconds." Then, in order to be fair, she repeated the experiment on Mr. McCain's Web site, entering the exact same information. Three times, she said, she received the message: "We have found errors in the information that you submitted. Please review the information below and try again."

Luo threw in a defense of the Obama camp:

To be fair to the Obama campaign, officials there have said much of their checking for fraud occurs after the transactions have already occurred. When they find something wrong, they then refund the amount.

But a New York Times analysis of campaign finance records looking for obvious anomalies in donor information quickly found more than a dozen contributors to Mr. Obama using obviously fictitious name. This was a tiny fraction of Mr. Obama's donor pool, but it appeared from the analysis that Mr. McCain had far fewer apparent fake names among his donors.