Report: Obama.com solicits foreign contributions for prez

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The independently owned website Obama.com, which steers users to the president's campaign donation website, gets most of its traffic from foreign countries, raising questions about the legality of tens of millions of small dollar donations to the campaign, according to a new report.

The Government Accountability Institute today released details of an eight-month probe into fundraising by the presidential candidates and all House and Senate candidates that also shows that the president's outreach and fundraising have targeted websites in Chinese, Arabic, Thai, and Korean. Generally, donations from foreign nations are illegal.

The 108-page analysis from the group that made news in an earlier report that suggested President Obama skips many of his national security briefings studied security flaws in credit card fundraising conducted by Obama, Mitt Romney, and congressional candidates. Many have security flaws, said the report.

But it devotes a large section of its effort to concerns about donations to the Obama campaign. Secrets reported late Thursday that a TV network, national magazine and national website were working on the story but were being pressured by the Obama campaign to kill it. Sources said the story was still on hold today. ABC News, however, has teased one element of the story: the existence of fake Republican and Democratic fundraising websites.

The report suggests that some of the donations to Obama have come from foreign sources. But, it notes, many are less than the $200 cut-off which requires the campaign to identify the donor.

The report focuses on the website Obama.com, which used to be owned by a major Obama donation bundler. Type that site in and you are directed to the Obama donation site. The report said that 68 percent of the traffic to Obama.com comes from overseas.

From the report provided to Secrets:

-- Obama Campaign Lacks the Industry-Standard Level Of Credit Card Security For Donations, But Uses It For Merchandise Purchases: To purchase Obama campaign merchandise, the campaign requires buyers to enter their credit card CVV security code, but does not require the credit card security code to be entered when making an online campaign donation. By GAI's estimates, the Obama campaign's failure to utilize industry-standard protections potentially costs the campaign millions in extra processing fees.

-- Obama.com Purchased By An Obama Bundler In Shanghai, China With Questionable Business Ties to State-Run Chinese Enterprises: In 2008, Obama.com was purchased by an Obama fundraiser living in Shanghai, China, whose business is heavily dependent on relationships with Chinese state-run television and other state-owned entities.

-- 68% Of Traffic To Anonymously Registered Obama.com Is Foreign: According to industry leading web analytics site Markosweb, an anonymously registered redirect site (Obama.com) features 68% foreign traffic. Starting in December 2011, the site was linked to a specific donation page on the official www.BarackObama.com campaign website for ten months. The page loaded a tracking number, 634930, into a space on the website labeled "who encouraged you to make this donation." That tracking number is embedded in the source code for Obama.com and is associated with the Obama Victory Fund. In early September 2012, the page began redirecting to the standard Obama Victory Fund donation page. Search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, using common spamming techniques, may have also been undertaken by unknown third-parties, generating foreign traffic to Obama.com.