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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.
 
 
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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, RedState.com 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.”

The campaign is barely telling you anything about these GOP hyper-partisans. The GAI tried to smear Obama’s foreign policy credentials in September by falsely accusing the president of not attending enough intelligence briefings. The lead author of that attack in theWashington Post did not disclose that his former business partner, Schweizer, was now heading the "think tank" whose report on the briefings was the basis of the attack. Schweizer’s resume also includes writing speeches for Donald Rumsfeld and for the Bush White House. The intelligence accusations were called flat-out false by the Washington Post’s fact checkers.

Schweizer, who was also an “editor” of a Breitbart Web site, also called for military strikes on North Korea in 2010 and helped ghostwrite a political biography for GOP Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the Shreveport Times reported in late 2010. That the Florida-based GAI describes itself as “a team of investigative researchers and journalists committed to fairness and fact-driven reporting,” is a political fiction.

These Republicans are hyper-partisans making baseless accusations that are intended to fortify the Right’s hatred of Obama by playing another version of the race card. We have seen this before. In 1996, Republican presidential candidate Robert Dole and the GOP attacked Bill Clinton by tarring his campaign with a single illegal foreign donation. In 2004, Republican presidential candidate John McCain attacked Obama by trying to link him to ACORN, a now-closed low-income advocacy group that ran voter registration drives in communities of color.

Last week, another rightwinger, filmmaker Joel Gilbert supposedly mailed 2.7 million copies of his full-length documentary DVD, Dreams from My Real Father, to voters in key swing states, with 1.5 million going to Florida, 700,000 to Colorado and 500,000 to Iowa. In September, he allegedly sent 1.38 million DVDs households in Ohio and an additional 100,000 to New Hampshire and 80,000 to Nevada. This racist tirade purports to tell people that Obama’s father was a radical poet, journalist and Communist—not the Kenyan in the president’s popular autobiography.

This ugly propaganda is only going to increase in intensity as the 2012 election nears. Another right-wing video claims that Obama has sanctioned all kinds of security leaks from the White House for political gain. That line is no different from the GOP going after John Kerry’s Vietnam War record, saying he was a fake war hero.

We can laugh at the buffoonery of RedState.com’s Erick Erikson. As he found out, the campaign’s online banking operation might not be as fast as Citibank, but it’s about as fast as a local restaurant—taking a few days to deduct a tip on the original bill.

But the bottom line is more serious. What’s common to all these accusations is that the truth is being intentionally falsified to smear Obama and try to elect Mitt Romney. And it is no accident that they are coming as Romney must defend his weakest credential to be president—the utter lack of foreign policy experience. It’s no surprise that the GOP is fabricating fake "foreign" issues. What’s surprising is that the mainstream media is giving it attention, when the slightest scrutiny shows how silly the attack and the attackers are.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

 
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