October 6th, 2008
03:02 PM ET

Obama’s "good will" hunting

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/06/art.obama.pa.gi.jpg]
Michael Isikoff

The Obama campaign has shattered all fund-raising records, raking in $458 million so far, with about half the bounty coming from donors who contribute $200 or less. Aides say that's an illustration of a truly democratic campaign. To critics, though, it can be an invitation for fraud and illegal foreign cash because donors giving individual sums of $200 or less don't have to be publicly reported.

Consider the cases of Obama donors "Doodad Pro" of Nunda, N.Y., who gave $17,130, and "Good Will" of Austin, Texas, who gave more than $11,000—both in excess of the $2,300-per-person federal limit. In two recent letters to the Obama campaign, Federal Election Commission auditors flagged those (and other) donors and informed the campaign that the sums had to be returned. Neither name had ever been publicly reported because both individuals made online donations in $10 and $25 increments. "Good Will" listed his employer as "Loving" and his occupation as "You," while supplying as his address 1015 Norwood Park Boulevard, which is shared by the Austin nonprofit Goodwill Industries. Suzanha Burmeister, marketing director for Goodwill, said the group had "no clue" who the donor was. She added, however, that the group had received five puzzling thank-you letters from the Obama campaign this year, prompting it to send the campaign an e-mail in September pointing out the apparent fraudulent use of its name.

"Doodad Pro" listed no occupation or employer; the contributor's listed address is shared by Lloyd and Lynn's Liquor Store in Nunda. "I have never heard of such an individual," says Diane Beardsley, who works at the store and is the mother of one of the owners. "Nobody at this store has that much money to contribute." (She added that a Doodad's Boutique, located next door, had closed a year ago, before the donations were made.)

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said the campaign has no idea who the individuals are and has returned all the donations, using the credit-card numbers they gave to the campaign. (In a similar case earlier this year, the campaign returned $33,000 to two Palestinian brothers in the Gaza Strip who had bought T shirts in bulk from the campaign's online store. They had listed their address as "Ga.," which the campaign took to mean Georgia rather than Gaza.)

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. char lynch

    we dont hear much about what hillary and bill clinton are up to . are they out there supporting obama ? if so where and what are they doing to help the party?

    October 7, 2008 at 8:50 am |
  2. Jim from NJ

    It would take over 2 million people to contribute $199 each to hit this kind of money. They do this by asking for money through email – I get three emails everyday from Barack's campaign asking for donations.

    I hate to say it, but the chances for fraud are statistcally higher when funding comes from more people. Obama's campaign has a duty to research with due diligence and weed out fraudulent contributions.

    As an indepenedent, I voted for Obama in the primaries based on that he was 'not connected' in Washington like Hillary was. I jumped off the Obama bandwagon in June (after he won the primaries) because he was on TV in a meeting with LOTS of connected Democratic bigwigs.

    At this point, I think we need another Ronald Reagan – an aged person with lots of experience to get us back on track. For all those who say Mccain is too old and can die, Barack can also die.

    October 7, 2008 at 6:10 am |
  3. Daniel Bisso

    Don’t listen to the Hype that a bad economy benefits Obama. Give me one good argument as to why it favors Obama….other than the historical fact of past voting during economic depressions. People aren’t going to pay higher taxes if they can’t afford them. Obama's whole plan and mindset was based on a solid economy. Suddenly, things are falling apart and Obama can’t adapt. He still claims that he can do the big spending. Again, when times get tight, people change their spending, they tighten up. Businesses lay people off…they tighten up. Why can’t Barrack change his spending plans? Doesn’t that tell you all you need to know?

    October 7, 2008 at 5:15 am |
  4. J.V.Hodgson

    According to you goodwill and Nunda pro contributions were returned.
    So in the end no issue here.
    The smear? malpractice? of receiving foreign contributions is actually more of an issue. Currently it appears to be just speculation with no foundation.
    Please investigate first or say that the RNC has requested the FEC to investigate.
    Doing neither of the above in this article, is not helpful.
    The internet is notorious for being able to dupe people by mutiple addresses from one PC on different ISP's for example.
    Evidence, evidence evidence please before you publish that someone has wilfully committed and offense under law!!
    This is shameful Journalism.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:29 am |
  5. Kim

    The FEC has strict rules and regulations and we read all that last night. One of their rules is CONFIDENTIAL UNTIL CLOSED ! It's credit card fraudulant activity and that's a felony isn't it ? Issikoff the reporter has the information and the FEC's rule is it's confidential until closed. Who is keeping an eye on Obama's campaign contributions while he's jumping on and off airplanes running for President? Something is totally wacked out on all this and have the rules with the FEC's confidential until closed been followed ! Not to mention the fraud with these contributions that came into the Obama campaign. What is a campaign's proceedure in reporting to the FEC and their time frames to do so ? They're going to get Obama in trouble ! What a mess !

    October 7, 2008 at 3:51 am |
  6. David Kinker

    Anderson, My wife and I are middle class, life-long Iowans in our mid to late 50's (I'm the old guy). We are both registered Democrats and proud of it. We supported Hillary initially, but are now solid Obama supporters. We have contributed several times to the Obama campaign via the Internet in amounts ranging from $25 to $250, and our total is less than $500. This kind of donation is not going to make or break the outcome of the election, but we feel strongly that we need to support Obama in any way we can in his bid to oust the Republicans from the Executive Branch. We have never contributed a single cent to anyone in previous elections, but we now feel an urgent need to do what we can to try to put someone in the Presidency that will restore our pride in being Americans. I have had the opportunity to travel abroad in my current job, and I greatly resent being placed in the position of having to explain that the inane policies of our current President are not those of many Americans, including myself. If a multitude of modest monetary contributions like those from my wife and me help get Obama elected, then I see this as an example of true grass roots democracy in action, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. If the Republicans see this as as something other than what it is, then I would have to say that is just too damn bad! I'm tired of listening to true believer Republicans and their sanctimonious claims of access to knowledge of the truth straight from God. This is the same kind of irrational and intolerant nonsense that we have heard from religious and ideological zealots since the beginning of recorded history. In my opinion, the Christian Right wing of the Republican Pary, which is to say the power base of this once great political party, is guilty of the same kind of intolerance and insistance that their beliefs are right and everone else's beliefs are wrong (or evil) as the beliefs of the extremist factions of Islam that have declared a holy war on the West.

    October 7, 2008 at 3:12 am |
  7. Kim

    Sounds like the Obama team and the FEC are on top of the situation and thanks for writing this article to let us know. Confused on who called it to the FEC's attention in complaint. The McCain's team Cairncross or the Obama team ?

    October 7, 2008 at 3:10 am |
  8. Kim

    The credit card that connects "Goodwill "and "Dooddad Pro " would identify who these people are wouldn't it ? Ben La Bolt says they returned the money on their credit cards ? The Federal Election Commission has the complaint filed by Cairncross per newsmax.com and he's on the McCain team. Who knows and it's confidential until closed and those are the rules per the FEC. Will the FEC be performing an audit of Obama campaign ? Will the Obama team have to pay a fine over this situation ?

    October 7, 2008 at 2:52 am |
  9. Yang Sciscent

    How superficial of anyone to think that the greed is promoted by a certain political party! Our system is capitalism, regardless what party presides over, the most robust kind that by nature it opens all the opportunities and also entices greed that unfortunately comes from human instinct in the negative way. To look for the next president to fix the human heart is a question that we all know the answer, for that person is a product of this system. To blame the current president for the financial disasters just shows how desperately we need to find a scapegoat, as if we could fix it but he didn't. I think in the face of financial crisis, to blame or entrust easily, or mingle finance with politics readily just showed how risky we ourselves can be.

    October 7, 2008 at 12:21 am |
  10. Ruby Jones

    I donated money to Obama as well.

    On experience: Has it ever occurred to anyone that Sen. Obama got to D.C. and noticed that things were starting to go South for our country and thought just maybe he could do more to help the country as the President than a Sen.?

    October 7, 2008 at 12:10 am |
  11. CaroleK

    Not since John Kennedy, for whom I was too young to vote, can I recall a Presidential election that raised so much interest and excitement. As a Baby Boomer, I am thrilled! This is the first time that my children and my friends' children have taken an active interest in politics. The record campaign contributions to Obama's campaign came from every day working people. It's AWESOME! I am thrilled that so many people have registered to vote for the first time. It is sad that it took this terrible economyand the war in Iraq for people to realize every vote counts and that it looks like the day has come when Americans are judging a candidate by his intellect, his character, his achievements, his vision and not his race. OBAMA/BIDEN

    October 6, 2008 at 11:58 pm |
  12. Ray

    Hi Anderson

    I watch your program religiously from Toronto Canada. Canadians are riveted by the great American rude awakening of the greed culture as promoted by your president and his criminal coherts, namely Dick C.

    We only pray Americans realize the obvious next option for USA Obama 09!

    October 6, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  13. EJ (USA)

    I only that Good Will Hunting movie a couple months back. Pretty good! Thank Jeff Toobin for the netflix recommendation.

    October 6, 2008 at 11:19 pm |
  14. Sally

    Any campaign site where people can leave credit card info will attract looneys.

    The PROBLEM is not that these things occurred. the problem is that the Obama campaign REFUSES to make the database public. The McCain database is PUBLIC and illegal contributions have been found so can be corrected.

    Why does Obama NOT make his database public – the problem would dissapear? In Switzerland there were Obama fund raising meals with stars where people paid $10'000 to eat with G Clooney. I'm not sure and cannot check if only US citizens went to that event. This is simply illegal (individual contribution limit & nationality) – giving the info would clear everything up -Why won't they?????

    October 6, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  15. Vicki from NJ

    I find it amazing that Senator Obama, in his speeches, always manages to somehow separate himself from the government body of which he is a part of, (i.e., it's always the government's fault or Republicans, not mine) is what he speaks. But it seems that no one else seems to pick up on that? In all fairness to Senator McCain...Senator Obama and his campaign have had it really easy just having to connect McCain to Bush and there you have it, a ready made attack ad. But, it's just not fair since McCain is not Bush so therefore, it's an unjust attack and I'd like to remind Senator Obama's campaign that for the last couple of years the Senate was and is mostly made up of Democrats so what does that tell you?

    October 6, 2008 at 10:45 pm |
  16. Christine

    Then I encourage all my friends and relations to donate too. We're not rich either. We get by from one day to another.

    October 6, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  17. Christine

    I'm guilty too. I've never given any money to a campaign either.

    October 6, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  18. Marika

    Hmm...Sounds like the Republican party is jealous! Does this mean that McCain/Palin are going through an economic crisis as well? I always did like Karma!

    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    October 6, 2008 at 10:13 pm |
  19. Jay - NY


    Lets say for a moment, Obama is caucasian, WOULD any one be asking WHERE THE CAMPAIGN MONEY CAME FROM??? Here is another question to those who are worried Obama might win. McCain's weakness has alwasy been the economy, the media, democrats and even his own party has acknowledged this. So why hand him the reigns to the house during this time of crisis? That is like asking a teacher to build you a bridge. He will keep America in Iraq until America sees the return on its investment, this might take another decade. He is a horrible politician and terrible speaker. He is being challenged by Obama on all fronts and all he can do is smear his name.
    I am taking my chances with Obama because he has demonstrated an immense character thus far. He will surround himself with experts on the economy and will do well.

    October 6, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  20. Pam

    Your "free ride" comment is inappropriate. I personally have three kids, two jobs, and I am working on a Double Major in Pre-Law and Criminal Justice with a 3.8 GPA. So your inference that only those who are "looking for a free ride" support Obama is ridiculous. I bet you also voted for Bush in the last two elcetions – enough said! As for Fox and the Facts – that's funny. Try factcheck.org.
    As for solutions – what is John McCain offering? Wait, he may have to suspend his campaign for a day or two to figure out his solutions. If he does win the White House, let's pray that two different issues never happen on the same day.

    P.S. You will probably never see this because my comments are always awaiting moderation.

    October 6, 2008 at 9:38 pm |
  21. Adam

    I really laugh at the people that say CNN is not fair and only support obama. Do you same hypocrites do the same to FOX who displays an absolute hate for the man? Few say the country will go down if Obama is next POTUS, if you look around you with your eyes open you will see that the U.S. is already on the ground and in need of some real leadership badly!!!! See, its the people with narrow minds that are really holding America back from her TRUE potential and its shameful because we ar truly better than that. Sorry to see that in all this mess we find ourselves in that we still have people drinking the kool-aid, past events have taught them NOTHING, and they suffer because of a lack of knowledge!!!!!!

    October 6, 2008 at 9:36 pm |
  22. EJ (USA)

    EJ, I expect CNN to be fair. I don’t need CNN or any other station to tell who I should vote for. As an Obama supporter, I guess you’ve been pleased with their favorable coverage of Obama.

    But if being fair is bending over backwards to paint John McCain as a great campaigner and consistent on issues – they would just be lying.

    I have seen the anchors try to do this and they always end up looking bad in the end. They try to give each side equal time and equal criticisms, but come on - when one side is 10X better – there's not much you can do!

    October 6, 2008 at 8:44 pm |
  23. Kent, Illinois

    Well, when you have literally millions of people contributing...........how do you plan on investigating them before you take the money? You take the money........gimme a break.

    October 6, 2008 at 8:30 pm |
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