Ex-CIA Expert: Obama Took Millions in Illegal Foreign Donations
| Wednesday, October 29, 2008 9:27 PM |
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
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.
A Newsmax sampling of about 3,400 donors also found hundreds more who showed “yellow flags” such as not having used a Social Security number or a known U.S. address. Most U.S.-born citizens are issued Social Security numbers at birth or by the time they enter kindergarten.
Under federal law, only U.S. citizens or permanent residents may donate to federal political campaigns. It is illegal for the campaigns to accept money knowingly from foreign donors.
The McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill of 2002 placed new restrictions on political fundraising after the scandals of 1996, when the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign was exposed for having taken millions of dollars of unregulated soft money from donors with ties to Chinese military intelligence.
But even with the new laws, it remains very difficult to identify with any precision foreign money if a campaign itself does not cooperate with the Federal Election Commission and perform its own due diligence.
Until very recently, the Obama campaign had no safeguards in its online fundraising Web site designed to weed out foreign donors. Instead, its operations appeared to be designed specifically to enhance the flow of illegal money.
The Newsmax investigation focused only on donors whose names the Obama campaign disclosed, which are available to public scrutiny through the Federal Election Commission Web site.
In addition to the donations the campaign has disclosed, however, it has taken an unprecedented $218 million from donors whose names it is keeping secret, according to FEC spokesman Robert Biersack.
That money came from individuals who in theory never passed the threshold of $200, the limit the FEC set for public disclosure of a donor’s name and place of residence, so there is no way of knowing how much foreign money could be included in that amount.
For example, hidden away amidst the unprecedented $150 million Obama claims to have raised from individual donors in September was more than $42 million raised from secret donors. These donations appear in the records as a single entry under the heading, “Donors, Unitemized.”
Newsmax retained the services of former CIA operations officer Frederick W. Rustmann Jr. and a team of international forensic accounting experts to comb through Obama’s donor list to identify those who apparently aren’t U.S. citizens or residents. Rustmann, a 24 year veteran field officer, operates CTC International Group Ltd., a West Palm Beach, Fla., firm that provides business intelligence services and analysis.
Using sophisticated Internet search tools, fee-based data bases, and other public records, CTC attempted to identify Social Security numbers and U.S. addresses connected to the Obama donors. Most of these donors gave obvious overseas addresses when they made their donations, but the Obama campaign had no security screen to detect them.
“Hillary and McCain demanded proof of citizenship of all their donors,” Rustmann said. “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.”
Rustmann and his investigative team expressed “high suspicions” that 118 donors flagged as “red” were not U.S. citizens.
“That’s all we can say for certain, because it’s difficult to prove citizenship with no database that lists citizens,” Rustmann said.
Typical is Victor A. of Lagos, Nigeria, who gave $500 to the campaign in May. In the FEC database, his address is listed as Ikoyi, NA. But a closer look at the actual itemized receipts filed by the campaign shows that he declared his address as 9e Awori Street Dolphin Estate, Lagos, Nigeria.
That apparently slipped by the eagle eyes of the Obama campaign’s finance team.
A survey of the Obama donor base returns 8,794 donations from individuals who gave their state as “NA.” They included donors from Bangalore, India; London; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Lagos, Nigeria; and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Thousands more gave state abbreviations that, combined with the city addresses they listed, clearly referred to foreign countries. Examples include IT (Italy), FR (France), GR (Greece), NZ (New Zealand), JP (Japan), GA (Gaza).
Another 2,372 donors gave their state of residence as “ZZ,” with cities including Moscow, Barcelona, Beirut, London, Lausanne, Singapore, Hagatna, Gunma-Ken, Buelach, Shanghai, Geneva, Prague, Aichi-Gun, Kiev, Hong Kong, and others.
The Obama campaign claims that these donors with overseas addresses are Americans living abroad, but there is no way of knowing that for certain because the campaign has not systematically required proof of citizenship from overseas donors.
The pace of foreign donations and other questionable fundraising practices has increased during the past few weeks, even as Obama campaign spokesmen say they have closed loopholes on their Web site and changed the credit-card authorization procedures that have allowed such donations. The Federal Election Commission had flagged 16,639 potential foreign donations as of Oct. 21 that brought in $5,249,263.96 to the campaign.
Take the case of Jo Jacquet, who gave $23,065 to Obama in 23 separate contributions last month. CTC found three people with variations of the name “Jo Anna Jacquet” who had U.S. addresses and Social Security numbers. It is not clear whether this specific Obama donor is a U.S. citizen.
“Jo Jacquet” made all of her contributions on two days, alternating between $5 and $2,300 charges to a credit card.
On all of the donations, she gave her employer as “DFDFGDFG,” and her profession as “DFGDFGDFGHFGH.” None of this attracted the suspicions of the Obama campaign or of Chase Paymentech, the company that processes the Obama campaign’s credit card donations.
The FEC requested that the Obama campaign re-attribute or re-designate all of the money from “Jo Jacquet” that went beyond the $4,600 limit but did not require that it be refunded. Under campaign finance rules, the campaign can shift this money into the “Obama Victory” account, a joint fundraising committee with much higher individual limits that it operates with the Democratic National Committee.
One apparent reason for the unusual number of foreign donors who may not hold U.S. citizenship is the fact the Obama campaign turned off the security features most merchants demand for customers when doing online transactions, such as verifying the card number against the cardholder’s name and billing address.
Another major loophole is the apparent widespread use of gift cards, which notoriously have been used for money-laundering purposes, especially in places such as Russia and Ukraine, industry security analysts tell Newsmax.
Newsmax asked James Wester, a spokesman for Chase Paymentech, who was responsible for taking the unusual step of deactivating the Address Verification Service recommended by VISA USA on the Obama Web site. Such security features can be deactivated by the processing company, or at the request of the merchant, in this case, Obama for America.
Wester said that Paymentech was “not going to be issuing a statement at this time.”
VISA USA has a series of verification tools it recommends to online merchants to prevent online credit card fraud and to guarantee the security of personal credit-card information.
“Fraudsters have been known to test credit card numbers by making online donations to charitable organizations,” a credit-card industry insider told Newsmax, on condition of anonymity.
In fact, by operating as a “high-risk merchant,” the Obama campaign could put both its donors and Chase Paymentech at risk, he said.
“A legitimate online merchant or charity would call in the Secret Service or the FBI” if it saw the high fraud rates that have appeared on the Obama campaign Web site.
“If they are not taking basic security safeguards to prevent such obvious online fraud as you have found, then how can any donor have confidence that they will protect credit card information? But if cash flow is the name of the game, it doesn’t matter as long as they get the money up-front and get the job done. They can pay the fines later,” he added.
Following are a few of the individuals the Newsmax/CTC International investigation found of overseas donors. To demonstrate its compliance with FEC regulations, the Obama campaign should request proof that these individuals are, indeed, U.S. citizens;
- Nasser Z. of 187 Blvd Bineau in Paris-France, “NA,” made seven donations totaling $785. CTC found no record indicating U.S. citizenship. But on Nasser’s personal blog, he states that he is of Algerian origin and lives between Paris and Dubai. He also notes that he is not registered to vote in the United States and hints that he may be an adviser to the Obama campaign on Arab relations.
- Salem H. gave $200 to the campaign in March 2008, listing a London address. He said he worked as a salesman for “Anaka,” No information was found either on Haffar or his company indicating U.S. citizenship.
- Essomba H. made 11 donations totaling $265. Essomba gave an address in Lyon, “NA,” and said he was unemployed but working for “Association,” the French equivalent of a community organizer. CTC found that Essomba actually worked for PDT Associates Afrikespace et Oyenga, which showed him as living in Lyon, France. His personal blog states, "I'm a Cameroonian living in France” and notes that he is not registered to vote.
- Gedewon (or Gideon) G. made 32 donations totaling $1,095. Although he lists his employer as “Filtom Design Services” and his residence as Toronto, Canada, CTC could find no company with that name. Gedewon frequently posts blogs to a Web site for expatriate Eritreans, where he often promotes Obama.
- Mahamane M. gave $500 to the campaign and listed his address as Niamey, the capitol of the central African state of Niger. He listed his occupation as managing director of C.N.U.T. Niger. The Public Transport Users Council, CNUT is affiliated with the prime minister’s office. In an interview, Mahamane said he is particularly interested in developing transportation resources that will help bring Niger’s extensive uranium resources to market.
- Gilles M. lives in Zurich and claims to be “founder and senior consultant” of 4?ME (sic) Image Consulting. Gilles made three donations to the campaign for a total of $240.39. The campaign found him suspicious enough to return one of them in July, but kept the rest. Under FEC rules, that will bring Gilles back into the shadows, since his aggregate contributions now total less than $200.
- Stamen S. of Sofia, Bulgaria, lists his profession as “Mployer” and his employer as "Employer." He has made ten donations totaling $170. CTC found no record indicating U.S. citizenship.
- Francis B. . of La Creche, France, made three donations totaling $200. He is reported as being a medicine physician at Hospital-Niort and is listed. CTC found no verifiable record of U.S. citizenship.
- Pedro M.,. who said he was a salesman for Intermundo in Prague, made two donations for a total of $900. CTC found no verifiable record indicating U.S. citizenship.
- Sandeep M., . an investment manager at Clariden Leu, Kuesnacht, in Zurich, Switzerland, gave the maximum $2,300 allowed per election. CTC found no verifiable record indicating U.S. citizenship.
- Marissa M., . a nurse living in Guatemala City, gave eight $25 donations. CTC found no verifiable record indicating U.S. citizenship.
- Somine L. . declared that she worked at the French Ministry of Culture in Paris, and donated $100. CTC found no verifiable record indicating U.S. citizenship.
Although CTC had no way of accurately evaluating the real amount of foreign donations based on the survey they did for Newsmax, Rustmann said he believe that the anecdotal evidence was clear.
“In my opinion, from what I have seen here, millions of dollars came from illegal donations, because the Obama campaign did little to vet the donors,” Rustmann said.
An earlier Newsmax estimate, based on the unusual occurrence of unrounded contributions, which fundraising experts attributed to foreign currency donations, concluded that as much as $63 million could have come from foreign sources.
A veteran investigator with the Criminal Investigative Division of the U.S. Secret Service told Newsmax on Monday that most of the donor fraud Newsmax has identified could fly under the radar of federal investigators, unless the feds received a complaint from a victim of identify fraud.
Identify fraud certainly appeared to be the case when it came to the $174,800 donated in September in the name of Manchester, Mo., resident, Mary T. Biskup. A retired insurance manager, Biksup told The Washington Post that she never gave the money to the Obama campaign, and had checked her credit-card statements and couldn’t find any trace of a charge to her account.
“We're not out a penny," Biskup said. "I gather that someone has hacked into something using other people's credit cards and putting my name on it."
The credit-card industry often covers up identify fraud, such as apparently occurred with Biskup. Credit-card companies would rather swallow losses and chargebacks than admit to consumers that criminals have cracked their security systems, insiders tell Newsmax.
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