We've come a long way from 2008 when President Obama, about to embark on his first run for the Oval office, vigorously advocated for a "robust system of public financing for elections". Now the Washington Examiner is reporting that several national media outlets are preparing to run a blockbuster story detailing Obama's potentially criminal campaign fundraising practices.
Also, the Obama campaign has apparently been working hard behind the scenes to ensure the story never sees the light of day. Sources report that a taxpayer watchdog group has recently concluded a nine month investigation into both presidential and congressional campaign fundraising practices and uncovered alarming patterns in Obama's reliance upon smaller, and therefore less transparent donations. Their research focuses on "thousands of cases of credit card solicitations and donations", many of which come from unknown sources overseas.
Suspicions of potential fundraising violations casts a pall over Obama's record setting September, which took in $150 million in donations, shattering the previous record of $114 million in August. Much of the September haul came from a large volume of small donations, and many of those via credit card. In August, Obama's campaign raised $25 million from contributions of $200 or less. In September, more than 2 million donors made donations of $25 or less.
In accordance with rules established by the Federal Election Commission, campaigns are asked to make their "best efforts" to track and report donations that fall in the $50-250 range but technically those who donate less than $200 do not need to be publicly disclosed. Campaigns are not even compelled to maintain records on those who donate under $50 at all, making these nearly impossible to transparently account for.
In 2008, there were similar issues surrounding Obama's fundraising practices since they relied so heavily on "largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity."
Despite the stridency of his advocacy for the public funding system in 2008, Obama eventually opted out of it, preparing the way for a massive capital advantage over John McCain. As a consequence, it is unlikely another presidential candidate will ever again use public funds.
Ivan Kenneally is Editor in Chief of the Daily Witness.