Schweizer: Schieffer Should Ask About Foreign Residents Contributing to Campaigns

Patrick Burke | October 22, 2012 | 2:12pm EDT
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Bob Schieffer of CBS News (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

( – CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer, the moderator of tonight’s presidential debate on foreign policy, should ask the candidates whether presidential campaigns should be required to verify the the addresses of contributors who donate online by credit card and then publicly report all contributions from foreign residents regardless of their amount, says Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI).

Under current election law, contributions do not need to be itemized on a candidate's public reports filed with the Federal Election Commission if they are under $200 and the contributor in question has not donated an aggregate of more than $200.

Over the weekend, the New York Post reported that a British citizen made two online contributions to the Obama-Biden campaign that the campaign accepted, but that similar contributions to the Romney campaign website were rejected.

The Obama and Romney campaign websites apparently do not apply the same security and verification measures in taking online contributions via credit card.

A Sept. 27report from GAI entitled America the Vulnerable: Are Foreign and Fraudulent Online Campaign Contributions Influencing US Elections? found that the Obama campaign website did not include the Card Verification Value (CVV) feature, also known as a Card Security Code, on its donation page.

The Obama campaign, however, did require the CVV from people purchasing merchandise from the “Store” section of its website.

Schweizer also contested a statement by the Obama campaign that it does use an AVS (Address Verification System) for online campaign contributions.

In a telephone interview, asked Schweizer, “At tonight’s presidential debate, should Bob Schieffer ask President Obama and Governor Romney if presidential campaigns should be required to have an AVS [Address Verification System] system on their online contribution forms to make sure people aren’t contributing from a false address?”

“And, also, if he should ask whether or not presidential campaigns should be required to publicly report all contributions made from foreign addresses regardless of the amount of the contribution?”

Schweizer said, “Yes, absolutely. I think it’s essential. You know, there’s going to be a lot of issues brought up in the debate that are going to be a subject for interpretation or different views on how policy towards Asia ought to be directed, for example.

"But this to me seems to be a clear cut, black-and-white issue in the sense that I have yet to find anybody who really seriously believes that it’s okay for foreign money to be influencing campaigns,” said Schweizer.

“So, I think it’s one of those real clear-cut examples where there would be huge interest for the American people in this question,” said Schweizer. “And it would be interesting to see what the candidates themselves have to say on such a basic issue as far as the integrity of our campaign finance system.”

(AP Photo)

Schweizer said that if he could, he would asked the candidates this question in the debate: “With the Worldwide Web and the Internet, foreign nationals now have exposure to portals which allow them to donate to your political campaign. Do you believe that there ought to be a required security system to prevent foreign nationals from illegally making campaign contributions?”

On Friday, in a separate interview with, Schweizer contested the Obama campaign’s assertion that it uses an Address Verification System.

“It’s simply not the case that they employ an address verification system and the claim that they sort-of have a manual back-end vetting system is also simply not borne out by the facts,” Schweizer told

“Examining the FEC data as it relates to zip codes demonstrates that the Obama campaign has an enormously higher error rate when it comes to zip codes that’s unlike any other campaign in 2012 or in 2008. And that is direct evidence that they’re not employing the same kind of credit card security verification system that other campaigns do from both political parties,” he said.

“If they have an AVS system that they’re using, the setting is so low that it’s basically meaningless,” he said.

Schweizer also warned of “robo-donations,” which is what happens when a website cannot ensure that a donation originates from an actual person with a credit card.

“The problem with robo-donations is if an individual, depending on the security systems employed by a campaign, robo-donations are a way in which you can funnel money, you can be a foreign national or somebody in the United States where you can funnel large sums of money and it wouldn’t even actually be disclosed,” Schweizer told

“Essentially, what you can do is you can take one credit card number or a bunch of credit card numbers and create a program whereby you would make small donations in randomly generated fictitious names and addresses. And because the FEC says that individual donations under 50 dollars, campaigns don’t even need to keep track of relevant information,” he said.

When asked why the Obama campaign’s donation page does not include a CVV feature, campaign spokesperson Jennifer Psaki referred to a “Fact Check” posted on the campaign website that refutes the GAI report’s claims.

“The allegations made by Government Accountability Institute (GAI) are more reflective of the group’s politics than any grain of truth,” according to the Fact Check.

The Fact Check also notes that the Obama campaign “does not accept contributions from foreign nationals.”

“OFA [Obama for America] 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,” says the Fact Check.

“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 Romney campaign’s official website includes the CVV feature in its donation form.

When asked by why the Romney campaign chose to include the CVV feature on its donation form, campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul replied, “We take the necessary protections to comply with the law.”

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