Theft Under Guise of Campaign Donations
It is 2008 all over again.
Back in 2008, some ne’er-do-wells in Eastern Europe saw how much Barack Obama was fundraising online and thought, “here is a great opportunity to make some easy illegal money.”
The ne’er-do-wells created copies of the Obama donation pages and hosted them on a vague sounding web address, such as http://secure.donate.obama.campaign.president.1234.com. They then drove traffic to this site. The unsuspecting political donors made political donations to, what they thought was, Obama for President. Once the scoundrels pockets were fully lined with ill-gotten political donations, they disappeared into the night. It is unknown how many political donations were made to these “look-alike” political donation web pages in 2008.
It is now happening again this year… only now legally. According to the National Journal a group named CAPE PAC is buying Google Adwords to drive potential donors to what appears to be a valid candidate websites. More than 3,000 political donors have been tricked into making donations, valued at over $570,000, to these deceptive sites. Unfortunately, the candidates are never seeing this money.
The PAC appears to be a valid political action committee but their usage of funds is pretty sketchy according to the article.
The take-away for all political campaigns: Make sure your donation page lives on your campaign’s URL. Governor Mitt Romney is a great example. His team sends donors to https://www.mittromney.com/donate. This URL gives your donors assurance they are in the right place.
Don’t be technically intimidated. It is easy to put a donation form on your own site. Simply use a tool like WidgetMakr which makes creating fundraising pages as easy as posting a YouTube video.
The take-away for donors: Before you fill in your credit card information, make sure the website you are on is really your candidate’s website. Check the donation page’s URL and all the legalese a the bottom of the page. If there is anything that looks fishy, you may want to go back to Google and do a search on your candidate’s actual name.
9/11/2012 – I received a statement from CAPE PAC in response to the National Journal story. It does a line by line rebuttal of the National Journal story.
Read the CAPE PAC response. (258 KB PDF)
I recommend you visit a few of the CAPE PAC websites and draw your own conclusions as to whether they are misleading or not.
A version of this post was also published on the Campaigns & Elections Campaign Insider blog.