Barack Obama’s presidential campaign smashed all previous fundraising records, raking in more than an astounding $650 million from some 3 million donors and giving him a huge advantage over rival John McCain.
But questions abound regarding the legality of many of the donations that helped propel him to victory.
And one question is: Did Obama “buy” the election?
Obama’s fundraising haul was more than twice the amount Democrat John Kerry raised in 2004, and more than twice what George Bush and Al Gore combined brought in during the 2000 presidential campaign.
“Nobody could have imagined numbers like this or participation like this,” veteran fundraiser Alan Solomont told Bloomberg.com.
Obama’s fundraising effort was in high gear from the very start, bringing in $24.8 million for the primary during the first three months of 2007, compared to $19.1 million for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
By the end of 2007, Obama had raised $102 million. He won the Iowa primary on Jan. 3, 2008, and raised another $36 million that month.
Almost half of Obama’s money came from people donating $200 or less, compared with 34 percent for McCain, Bloomberg reported.
Obama on two occasions promised to work with McCain on an agreement to accept public financing. McCain did accept public financing, limiting his ability to raise private donations, but in June Obama reneged on his vows, enabling him to raise unlimited amounts from donors.
The press by and large did not hold Obama accountable for the broken promises. But McCain sharply criticized him, saying: “Twice he looked the American people in the eye and said he would sit down with me before he abandoned public financing. He didn’t mean a word of it. When it was in his interest to break his promise, he tossed it aside like it didn’t mean a thing.”
Obama’s fundraising “revolutionized the way presidential campaigns are financed and may kill the Watergate-era system of providing public money for the general election,” Bloomberg observed.
Free to raise unlimited funds, Obama’s campaign brought in at least $200 million in September and October, more than doubling the amount available to McCain.
Obama’s huge edge in finances enabled him to devote nearly three times as much as McCain to advertising, with the Democrat spending $21.5 million to McCain’s $7.5 million from Oct. 21 to Oct. 28 as Election Day neared.
On the day before the election, Obama ran 3,410 ads in seven competitive states, while McCain ran only 1,900.
Obama also far outspent McCain on staff salaries, helping him to open field offices and fund a get-out-the-vote effort.
But an investigation by Newsmax correspondent Kenneth R. Timmerman has uncovered numerous examples of questionable donations, including those originating from foreign sources in apparent violation of laws forbidding candidates from accepting foreign money.On Sept. 29, Timmerman first disclosed that more than half of the $426.9 million Obama had raised at that point came from small donors whose names the Obama campaign would not disclose — making it impossible to verify that donors were not surpassing the $2,300 an individual can contribute to a candidate for the general election.The Federal Election Commission cited a series of $25 donations from a contributor identified as “Will, Good” from Austin, Tex. A Newsmax analysis of the master file for the Obama campaign discovered 1,000 separate entries for Mr. Good Will, totaling $17,375.
Similarly, a donor identified as “Pro, Doodad” gave $19,500 in 786 separate donations. The donor listed his employer as “Loving” and his profession as “You.” Some of Doodad Pro’s donations were refunded by the campaign, but as of Sept. 20 more than $11,000 had not been returned.Timmerman disclosed that the FEC compiled a database of potentially questionable overseas donations totaling $3.38 million. The funds came from such places as Abu Dhabi, Beijing, and Ethiopia.
In June, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gave a speech in which he claimed foreign nationals were contributing to Obama’s campaign.Timmerman also reported that donors from the Gaza Strip had contributed $33,000 to the Obama campaign through the purchase of Obama T-shirts they had shipped to Gaza.Timmerman published a new report on Oct. 8, disclosing that an investigation of Obama’s campaign finance reports turned up more than 2,000 cases in which individuals made donations far above the legal limit of $2,300 per election.
For example, in August the campaign filed a report listing a single donation from a Debra Myers in “Rancho Palos Verde, Calif.,” for $28,500, and a $28,500 contribution from a donor identified as Woodrow Myers Jr.
The Obama campaign said it had refunded both donations on Sept. 30, the day after Newsmax published Timmerman’s first report.Timmerman followed up with a new report on Oct. 19, disclosing that more than 37,000 Obama donations appeared to be conversions of foreign currency, totaling as much as $63 million.
The red flag was the odd amounts donated by a number of suspected foreign donors. One contributor gave $188.67, $1,542.06, $876.09, $388.67, $282.20, $195.66, and $118.15.
“They are obviously converting from local currency to U.S. dollars,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center.On Oct. 21, Timmerman revealed that the Obama campaign had accepted contributions from donors identifying themselves as King Kong, Daffy Duck, and Bart Simpson — without any apparent effort by the campaign to screen them out as suspect donors.
An individual using the name “O.J. Simpson” donated to the campaign on Oct. 14, giving his occupation as “convict.” The campaign sent O.J. a thank-you note.Other donors with clearly fictitious names include “Dertey Poiiuy,” “Mong Kong,” “Fornari USA,” and “jkbkj Hbkjb.”Timmerman reported on Oct. 29: “A Newsmax investigation of Obama/Biden campaign contributors, undertaken in conjunction with a private investigative firm headed by a former CIA operations officer, has identified 118 donors who appear to lack U.S. citizenship.
“Some of these ‘red flag’ donors work for foreign governments; others have made public statements declaring that they are citizens of Cameroun, Nigeria, Pakistan, Canada, and other countries.”
Frederick W. Rustmann Jr., the former CIA operations officer, told Newsmax: “Hillary and McCain demanded proof of citizenship of all their donors. Obama did not, so he benefitted by receiving an enormous amount of money from foreign donors who wanted to influence the U.S. election process.”
The conservative Heritage Foundation has taken the first step in what could be an in-depth investigation of Obama’s fundraising efforts, demanding that the FEC audit the Obama campaign.
The foundation issued a release on Tuesday declaring: “No doubt there is great ‘cause’ to be concerned about Obama’s fundraising effort.”
The foundation also pointed to a test by the independent National Journal to determine the veracity of allegations that the Democrat’s online fundraising system literally was designed to facilitate fraud.
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