Looking back on the past four years, it’s safe to say that the Obama administration is more than a little familiar with the credit industry. Not only did President Obama oversee the passing of the CARD Act, which made credit cards safer for consumers to use, he also helped found the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency designed specifically to keep an eye on major card companies. Taking all this into account, you’d think that President Obama’s campaign team would know enough to include a very basic security checkpoint for credit card donations made through the campaign’s official website.
Apparently, somebody missed that memo. A new report by the Government Accountability Institute has found that President Obama’s campaign site is just one of the 47.3% of congressional donation sites that do not use CVV codes to verify credit card donations. According to the institute, this is more than just an oversight – it’s a full-blown political scandal.
Card verification value codes are the three- or four-digit numbers printed on the back of your credit and debit cards. These are usually required when making an online purchase because they prove that you’re physically in possession of the card. As we discussed earlier with the Amazon scandal, without a CVV checkpoint in place there’s nothing stopping a thief from using a stolen credit card number they purchased online to make a purchase.
But it’s not just the possibility of fraudulent donations that concerns political analysts. Many experts find the prospect of foreign donors influencing elections to be even more worrying. According to the institute’s report, the absence of CVV checkpoints opens the door to foreign donors whose credit and debit cards would otherwise be rejected by the system. This could potentially enable foreign interests to purchase American campaigns, which is in blatant violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act.
And there is definitely evidence to suggest that both parties take advantage of foreign donations. Links and posts redirecting users to the unprotected donation pages of both President Obama and Senator Marco Rubio have been spotted on numerous foreign websites. It’s also thought that contributors have used robo-donor programs to chop up large donations into parcels of $50 or less. Such “small donors” are allowed to remain anonymous under federal regulations.
Considering that around 90% of retail sites – including the Obama campaign’s own merchandise store – use CVV checkpoints to verify transactions, the fact that such security features are absent on many political donation pages is suspicious to say the least. Even more concerning is the fact that the Federal Election Commission has yet to do anything to investigate or address this potential scandal. While the FEC has carried out a handful of donation investigations since 2008, they’ve never resulted in anything more serious than a small fine.
However, now that the cat is out of the bag, it’s time for the FEC to close this loophole. CVV checkpoints must be made mandatory for every federal campaign donation page. Even though we can’t yet prove that our politicians are selling their campaigns to foreign interests, do you really trust them enough to give them the benefit of the doubt?