Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. President Obama's perpetual campaign cash-o-matic machine kicks into high gear again this week as the celebrity-in-chief heads to Hollywood for several high-priced fundraisers. But while the Democrats' 2012 re-election team stuffs its hands into every liberal deep pocket in sight, questions about the Obama 2008 campaign finance operation still fester.
Last week, the laggard watchdogs at the Federal Election Commission announced an audit of the Obama 2008 campaign committee — which raised a record-setting $750 million. White House flacks are downplaying the probe as a "routine review."
But there's nothing routine about the nearly $3 million Obama has spent on legal expenses to address federal campaign finance irregularities and inquiries. Roll Call reports that Obama's campaign legal fees have exceeded all other House and presidential campaign committees, including members of Congress under ethics investigations.
There's nothing routine about the whopping $6 million that Team Obama has refunded to individual donors since Obama took office.
And there's nothing routine about the 26 warning letters to Obama for America totaling "more than 1,500 pages of questions and data that outlined compliance concerns — including the longest one ever sent to a presidential candidate," according to Roll Call.
Among the Obama 2008 campaign committee's shadiest transactions that have gone unpunished:
— Foreign funny money. Federal election law bans foreign nationals from contributing to American candidates. But during 2008, the Obama campaign was forced to return an illegal foreign donation worth $31,100 made by two brothers in the Gaza Strip, and even mainstream news outlets reported that candidate Obama's money-handlers had routinely failed to verify citizenship by checking donors' passports. As the Associated Press reported at the time: "One donor, Tom Sanderson of Canada, made clear his $500 contribution came from a foreign source. He included a note that said, 'I am not an American citizen!' Obama's campaign took the money anyway..."
Another illegal foreign donor, Australian Richard Watters, contributed $1,000, "entering a fake U.S. passport number — a random jumble of numbers and letters" onto the Obama donation website. "He said he also checked a box stating that he was an American living overseas, 'because I could see it wasn't going anywhere if I didn't do that.'"
Obama raked in at least $2 million in overseas donations.
— Online donor credit-card fraud. Weeks before the 2008 presidential election, investigative journalist Ken Timmerman blew the whistle on rampant phony straw contributors slipping through the Obama donation site. Just one example: "Mr. Good Will" from Austin, Texas. Mr. Good Will listed his employer as "Loving" and his profession as "You." Timmerman's analysis of 1.4 million individual donations to the Obama campaign discovered "1,000 separate entries for Mr. Good Will, most of them for $25. In total, Mr. Good Will gave $17,375. Following this and subsequent FEC requests, campaign records show that 330 contributions from Mr. Good Will were credited back to a credit card. But the most recent report, filed on Sept. 20, showed a net cumulative balance of $8,950 — still well over the $4,600 limit."
Subsequent digging by conservative bloggers found that the Obama campaign's donor website appeared to intentionally disable security protocols and facilitate illegal donations with bogus names, shell addresses and untraceable credit cards. Among Obama's online "donors": Bart Simpson, Family Guy, Daffy Duck, King Kong, O.J. Simpson, Mr. Doodad Pro, John Galt, Della Ware, Crazy Eight and Adolfe Hitler.
— Social justice funny money. In 2008, the Obama campaign wrote checks totaling more than $800,000 to a nonprofit offshoot of ACORN called Citizens Services Inc. The campaign claimed the money went to nonpartisan get-out-the-vote services. But receipts showed the funds paid for polling, advance work and event staging supplied by a nonprofit that supposedly does simple canvassing work on behalf of low-income people. The FEC allowed Obama to wave his magic wand and amend the records to change political expenses into non-political ones. As a Republican National Committee staffer commented at the time: "For a candidate who claims to be practicing 'new' politics, his FEC reports look an awful lot like the 'old-style' Chicago politics of yesterday."
On a related front, ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief filed an FEC complaint last year over illegal coordination between ACORN and the Obama campaign. MonCrief publicly released Obama donor lists supplied to ACORN affiliate Project Vote, which were allegedly used to target maxed-out presidential donors. The scheme involved converting the expenditures by Project Vote, ACORN and ACORN-affiliated entities to illegal, excessive corporate contributions to the Obama presidential campaign, in violation of federal law.
Nothing to see here, move along? The only "routine" business as usual being conducted here is Chicago-style self-exemption business as usual: Rules are for fools. Let the crooked cash flow in.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is email@example.com.