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Online donations scrutinized

October 27, 2008
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Barack Obama's record-breaking $150 million fund-raising performance in September has prompted questions about whether presidential candidates should be permitted to collect huge sums of money through faceless credit card transactions over the Internet.

Lawyers for both the Republican and Democratic parties have asked the Federal Election Commission to examine the question, pointing to dozens of examples of what they say are lax screening procedures by the campaigns that permitted donors using false names or stolen credit cards to make contributions.

"There is so much money coming in, and yet very little ability to say with certainty that you know who is giving it," said Sean Cairncross, the Republican National Committee's chief counsel.

Concerns about anonymous donations began to surface last month. Some bloggers described making their own attempts to display the flaws, donating under phony names as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Obama officials said safeguards have been added to their system. The campaign said it runs twice-daily sweeps of new donations, looking for irregularities. Flagged contributions are manually reviewed by a team of lawyers, and either cleared or refunded.

Reports of misused credit cards lead to immediate refunds.

WASHINGTON POST

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