Elections

Claim: Obama campaign illegally solicited foreign donors via social media website

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has been soliciting foreigners for donations, an explosive report from the conservative Government Accountability Institute (GAI) shows.

Those foreign donors are allegedly visiting the Obama campaign’s donation solicitation Web pages through a social media website the campaign controls, and through an outside website that serves mostly Internet users from outside the United States.

About 20 percent of visitors to the “my.barackobama.com” social media website “originated from foreign locations,” the report found. That Web address is owned and controlled by the Obama re-election campaign.

“At no point during the [website's] subscription process is a visitor asked whether he or she can legally donate to a U.S. election,” GAI notes.

“Once a visitor signs up, he or she immediately begins receiving solicitations for donations. In fact, numerous foreign nationals report receiving solicitation letters and thank you emails from the campaign for their support. Some of these emails have been reposted on blog sites to encourage friends to click on the donate link or get their names on the email list.”

The “primary purpose of my.barackobama.com is to create a highly personalized vehicle for individuals to ‘get involved’ and to invite others to do the same,” GAI explains. But Obama’s campaign “employs various techniques to gather email and other data on the friends and associations of [the site's] members to further the campaign’s fundraising efforts.”

Washington Examiner writer Paul Bedard reported last week that a fundraising scandal would soon hit the Obama campaign, and may have been one reason why the president bumbled his way to failure during Wednesday’s debate against Mitt Romney.

Federal law prohibits ”a foreign national, directly or indirectly,” from making “a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value … in connection with a Federal, State, or local election. The same section of law makes it a federal crime to “solicit, accept, or receive” such campaign contributions.

GAI’s report explores fundraising practices that directly contradict the president’s 2010 insistence that American elections shouldn’t be funded by foreign powers.

“I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities,” Obama said then.

GAI cites examples comprising what it calls “but a sample” of a large trend of Obama’s campaign soliciting foreign nationals for campaign donations. Those examples focus on foreign bloggers posting fundraising-request emails from the Obama campaign.

The group identified such Obama fundraising solicitations sent to Chinese, Azerbaijani, Vietnamese, Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian and Egyptian bloggers.

In a report accompanying the GAI report’s release, former U.S. Attorney Ken Sukhia concluded that the Obama campaign is clearly soliciting donations from foreign nationals. Sukhia served as counsel to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on military and overseas ballot cases during the 2000 election.

“The GAI Report has shown that the Obama Campaign actively solicits campaign contributions from non-U.S. residents throughout the world,” Sukhia wrote. “[S]uch solicitations could be explainable if they were received solely by U.S. citizens abroad. They clearly are not.”

In addition to soliciting foreigners for donations, the Obama campaign has chosen not to employ industry-standard safeguards against collecting unlawful foreign donations via its social media and online process, the GAI report says.