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The Russians Again? The GOP's Latest Obama Conspiracy Theory Debunked

As the GOP claims Obama is taking illegal foreign donations, a leading GOP pundit tries but can't breach campaign finance firewall.

The GOP’s propaganda squad has unleashed its latest breathless October surprise, accusing the Obama campaign of laundering small-dollar campaign contributions from illegal foreign donors—but the only surprise here is how lame this latest accusation is, beginning with the fact that it’s been widely debunked before!

You would think that Erick Erickson, editor and CNN contributor would know that, before confessing in print that he recently forged a foreign identity to try to get past the Obama campaign’s allegedly shoddy and illegal practices—only to find he was detected and rejected. Erickson, red-faced, protested his outing took too long!

The last time this attack was made was in May, by another right-winger who regularly appears on Fox News and writes for the Washington Examiner. And here’s a link to the GOP making this same accusation in 2008. And here’s a link to the nation’s leading election law blog, which today called it “much ado about nothing.”

“It is profoundly ironic that these Republican-leaning groups are claiming that there needs to be better disclosure of contributions to the Obama campaign under $200, while at the same time the Republican leadership in Congress has opposed even fixing the gaping holes in our existing campaign finance disclosure laws,” wrote Rick Hasen, Election Law Blog founder and a U.C. Irvine Law School professor.

Calling it ironic is far too polite for this latest GOP nontroversy. Only today’s most venal Republicans would look at small-dollar donations to any candidate and disparage them—when they are perhaps the last gasp of political participation by non-wealthy Americans in today’s money-drenched campaigns. Obama’s campaign boasts that it has collected more than 10 million donations this year, from more than 4 million people, which is how it has kept pace with the GOP’s big moneymen.

It’s also unbelieveable that the GOP’s latest fingerpointers would focus on small-dollar donations when their party’s 2012 super-donors, such as Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, have written multiple $10 million checks to GOP shadow groups during the 2012 race that are designed to flout federal campaign restrictions.

But October is desperation time in presidential campaigns. The latest GOP attack was previewed by Republicans appearing this weekend on CBS and then magically appeared a day later on the most rabid rightwing blogs. The attack—blaming foreigners, an old racist ploy for the GOP—is based on an arcane and false accusation: that the Obama campaign isn’t collecting the three-digit CVV code when they take online credit card donations.

Because federal election law does not require federal campaign finance reports to itemize donations under $200, the GOP propagandists—who are led by Sarah Palin’s former foreign policy advisor—are saying the tech-savvy Obama team is electronically gathering foreigners who support them and feeding overseas donations to their campaign. (One has to wonder if the people who concoct such wild conspiracies are actually revealing something that their political allies are doing for Romney!) 

But, more seriously, the Obama campaign responded on its blog, explaining that it has plenty of safeguards to ensure that foreigners are not donating, and that foreign Web sites as identified by their IP addresses are not being used to collect donations. It notes that the campaign vets donations from overseas by requiring current U.S. passport information and does not process any donation when the verification is not forthcoming.

“The allegations made by Government Accountability Institute (GAI) are more reflective of the group’s politics than any grain of truth,” the Obama campaign said. “GAI’s Chairman, Stephen Bannon, took over as executive chairman of Breitbart News and directed an anti-Obama movie released at the RNC by Citizens United. GAI President Peter Schweizer is a right-wing activist who advised Sarah Palin on foreign policy and worked as an editor for Breitbart News. The attorney hired by GAI to write their report, Ken Sukhia, shares an address with GAI, has 'strong Republican ties,' and touts his work with Republicans on his own website.”

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