Report: Romney’s campaign better than Obama’s at preventing foreign donations, but not perfect

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

A report from the conservative Government Accountability Institute (GAI) which found Barack Obama’s re-election campaign likely broke federal law by soliciting campaign contributions from overseas also took some issue with GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign finance apparatus.

Unlike Obama’s campaign, Romney requires online credit card donors to input Card Verification Value (CVV) data consisting of “a three or four digit number generally imprinted on the back of the card” in order “to verify that the person executing the purchase physically possesses the card.”

“The donation page on Mitt Romney’s campaign website requires contributors to enter the CVV,” according to the GAI report. “Were the Romney campaign to turn off the CVV (current laws do not require it), the campaign would become more vulnerable.”

GAI reported that about 11.9 percent of Romney’s website traffic comes from “foreign sources,” something that may raise suspicions. The Romney campaign website does, however, require donors to specifically identify themselves as proper donors and it’s unclear if foreign traffic would have anything to do with actual donations.

GAI said the “full extent” of Romney’s campaign donation bundlers “is not known” because of his campaign’s lack of transparency with regard to that information. GAI noted bipartisan calls for Romney to release that information.

“During the 2012 campaign, the Romney team has received some criticism for its campaign fundraising as it relates to foreign connections,” GAI reported. “An email chain circling within the banking giant Credit Suisse soliciting donations for Mitt Romney began with U.S. citizens but was ultimately sent to foreign staffers, including those in the firm’s London office.”

“Some bankers claimed that they felt the need to make the contributions because the executive who sent the email was the one who determined their bonuses. Also, Romney has held private fundraising events overseas asking for funds from Americans living overseas. One such event was a dinner in London hosted by the British Bank Barclay’s and Chief Executive Bob Diamond, a U.S. citizen. Guests were told to bring a passport to prove their citizenship.”

“The Romney campaign has also been criticized for using bundlers, men and women who collect donations and ‘bundle’ them together for the campaign, who are registered foreign agents,” GAI added.

“Ignacio E. Sanchez, one of Romney’s bundlers, is a registered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates and a presidential candidate for the Dominican Republic. Another registered foreign agent bundling for Romney is Tom Loeffler of Akin Gump, a former congressman turned lobbyist who has represented the government of Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong.”

In those bundling cases, it appears the Romney campaign followed all specific U.S. passport requirements and no evidence of any wrongdoing has been presented.

GAI also cautioned that a “Twitter account that appears to be from the Romney campaign tweets in Arabic, presumably to a foreign audience,” and that “Romney campaign’s Facebook page is available on Arab Facebook.” The Romney campaign says that the Twitter account GAI cites isn’t a campaign account.

Such arrangements, the group concluded, could encourage foreign nationals to engage with the campaign as fundraisers. Unlike the Obama campaign’s apparatus, though, no evidence of specific wrongdoing or potential illegal activity has been presented with regard to the Romney campaign.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told The Daily Caller that the campaign is “very familiar with the laws on this important topic and our campaign goes to great lengths to abide by them. It is ludicrous to claim otherwise, especially based on such thin, baseless allegations.”

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