Federal Politics

Published — December 10, 2015 Updated — Today at 12:52 pm EST

Campaign finance reform measure: ‘a solution in search of a problem’?

Proposal could affect how Sanders, O’Malley, Huckabee raise money online

Introduction

You probably don’t give much thought to the three-digit code on the back of your credit card. But a small, bipartisan group of lawmakers thinks political campaigns should be paying a lot more attention to them — in order to keep illicit money from coming into U.S. elections.

Those digits are the focus of a new bill called the “Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act.” The legislation’s main sponsor is Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus who gained notoriety for boycotting Pope Francis’s address to Congress in September.

Supporters of the legislation say that without the additional verification, foreigners — or others with designs on using fraudulent credit cards — could hypothetically funnel money to political candidates.

“A loophole exists in the current disclosure requirement for online donations that makes it relatively easy for bad actors to circumvent federal contribution levels,” Gosar said during a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill, adding that his new bill would “prohibit foreign nationals from cheating the system.”

Most political observers say there hasn’t been widespread evidence of such abuse.

“It is illegal for foreigners to contribute no matter what method they use,” said Ken Gross, a former associate general counsel for the Federal Election Commission. “Is there some evidence that credit cards are being used to get around that restriction? I have not heard of that.”

In 2008 and 2012, Republicans accused President Barack Obama’s campaign of taking foreign money through credit card contributions, but the FEC ultimately dismissed the allegations.

Whatever the risk, many campaigns do require credit card verification when they solicit online donations. Many, but not all.

Among Democratic presidential contenders, only the party’s frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, currently requires this type of verification. Neither of her main rivals, Bernie Sanders nor Martin O’Malley, does.

Nor does former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who briefly sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and is now considering a 2016 bid as an independent.

Among Republican presidential contenders, it’s a different story.

Only Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, does not already require this information from online donors, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of candidates’ websites.

“There is no reason for a well-funded campaign not to have those safeguards,” said Cleta Mitchell, a Republican campaign finance lawyer.

Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Sanders, said that the campaign uses the online platform from Democratic fundraising powerhouse ActBlue. He dismissed Gosar’s bill as “a solution in search of a problem.”

Like Sanders, Webb also relies on an outside vendor, said Webb campaign spokesman Craig Crawford.

“We are in the midst of switching companies, so we’ll raise this issue with them for discussion,” Crawford said.

Neither representatives of ActBlue nor the campaigns of Huckabee or O’Malley responded to requests for comment.

Gosar’s bill — which is currently co-sponsored by 21 Republicans and two Democrats — comes at a time when campaign finance regulations have become increasingly controversial and increasingly partisan in Washington.

Democrats have vigorously pushed for new rules and stricter regulations in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which helped usher in the era of super PACs and “dark money” nonprofit groups that don’t disclose their funders. Many Republicans, meanwhile, have called for a loosening of campaign finance rules — including lifting current caps on how much political parties can coordinate their spending with candidates.

Backers of Gosar’s bill hope to kick-start a new, bipartisan conversation.

“This is a good bill to get the debate about reform started,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., a co-sponsor of the bill who is a rarity among Republicans in that he also wants to overturn Citizens United and to adopt public financing for elections.

Jones’ sentiment was echoed by John Pudner, the executive director of Take Back Our Republic, a conservative group that worked with Gosar to draft the legislation.

“I am hoping this is a first step,” said Pudner. “Let’s look at other ways ‘dark money’ can get in. We don’t want our government being bought and influenced.”

This story was co-published with Al Jazeera America.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.