Barack Obama has earned praise for his skillful use of new technologies during the campaign. However, he may have to put his infamous Election Day text messages on hold.
This week, Judicial Watch made requests to authorities in 19 states to investigate whether these text messages would violate state law that prevents electioneering in polling places. The states we've written thus far are Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, California, Colorado, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, Oregon, and Texas. (Other states are in the offing.)
You may remember that during the primaries, Senator Obama's campaign repeatedly used text messages to rally voters. According to the New York Times, the Obama campaign "sent repeated messages and caucus tips to the cell phones of its Iowa supporters." In New Hampshire, they sent three text messages on primary day alone. The idea was to reach younger voters ages 18-29 and to motivate them to go to the polls. (Studies show that text messages can increase turnout for young voters by about four percent.) This outreach effort was so successful the campaign apparently intends to conduct a similar text message campaign on Election Day.
Here's the problem: Voters take their cell phones with them to vote. And given that these text messages will likely be received and read by voters on their cell phones inside polling places, and perhaps even inside voting booths, the messages may violate an Illinois state law against electioneering within polling places.
By way of example, Illinois law specifically states: "No…person shall, at any primary or election, do any electioneering or soliciting of votes or engage in any political discussion within any polling place." [10 ILCS 5/17-29 (a)]
Here's a brief excerpt from our letter to Illinois' Secretary of State, dated October 28, 2008:
Even if an individual is planning on voting for Senator Obama on Election Day, a voter should be able to enter a polling place and cast his or her vote without being subjected to yet more electioneering. Secrecy, privacy, and freedom from outside influence in the polling place are fundamental to ensuring a fair election process. The people of Illinois must be free to cast their votes without electioneering text messages inside Illinois polling places. Illinois law requires no less.
In our view, there is no difference between a text message received on a cell phone in a polling station and a campaign sign. The effect is to influence citizens as they cast votes, which is prohibited by law across the country. Government authorities should ask Senator Obama to abandon his planned Election Day text message campaign.
If you share our concerns about this issue, I suggest getting the word out by passing this email along and by contacting election officials in your state about enforcing the laws we cite concerning electioneering.
Obama Campaign Accepts Untraceable Donations
There is no question Barack Obama's campaign finance operation has been impressive. Some press reports suggest the campaign will have raised a jaw-dropping $750,000,000 when all is said and done. But until recently, no one in the so-called mainstream media bothered to investigate how these funds were collected and whether the Obama campaign has violated any campaign finance laws on route to its record-smashing haul.
Evidence uncovered in just the last few weeks, however, suggests we may be witnessing the single most flagrant campaign finance scam in our nation's history.
According to the Wednesday edition of The Washington Post (which, incidentally, has endorsed Senator Obama for the White House):
Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.
Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its books for improper donations after the money has been deposited…
In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for Obama's accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro.
The problem with these cards, campaign finance lawyers say, is that it is "impossible to tell whether foreign nationals, donors who have exceeded the limits, government contractors or others who are barred from giving to a federal campaign are making contributions."
Now, as the Post points out, this problem is preventable. And so, we must ask ourselves: If "basic security measures" exist to prevent fraudulent online donations, why would the Obama campaign choose not to employ them? Why employ a labor-intensive painstaking back-end review of all donations instead?
Simple. The Obama campaign wants to be able to use as much money as possible, even if it is illegally obtained, and return only those funds they are forced to return. And they do not want to impose any delays on the processing of donations to the campaign, even if it means that foreign nationals and other illegal donors may be allowed to corrupt our electoral process. Obama's fundraising system completely undermines campaign finance law enforcement.
The fact is nearly half of Obama's campaign funds (amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars in donations) were obtained from sources that have yet to be made public. Unlike the McCain campaign, which publishes the names of all of its donors on its campaign Internet site, no matter how small the donation, the Obama campaign refuses to disclose the names of those who donate in increments of $200 or less.
I don't think there is any question the Obama campaign has illegally accepted illegal contributions. The only question is how many? And because the Obama campaign refuses to come clean, we may not have any answers until long after Election Day.
Alaska Senator Stevens Convicted
Last week I reported to you the results of a Judicial Watch-Zogby poll, where 92% of likely voters said that corruption was a "significant problem" in Washington. With congressional leaders such as Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, is there any wonder why?
This week, Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate, was convicted on seven felony counts for accepting illegal gifts and then lying about it. Here's the story according to the Associated Press:
Ted Stevens, a pillar of the Senate for 40 years and the face of Alaska politics almost since statehood, was convicted of a seven-felony string of corruption charges Monday – found guilty of accepting a bonanza of home renovations and fancy trimmings from an oil executive and then lying about it.
Unbowed, even defiant, Stevens accused prosecutors of blatant misconduct and said, 'I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have.'
Stevens took a bit of a gamble and called for a speedy trial. Obviously he thought that he was in for a quick pre-Election Day acquittal. The establishment of both parties came to his defense. Heavyweights such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye embarrassed themselves and testified in his defense, apparently with no effect. Stevens apparently had a crack legal team as well.
But not so fast. The jury found him guilty on all counts. And Stevens now faces the possibility of a 35-year prison sentence, though most observers think he'll get off with a substantially reduced sentence and perhaps serve no jail time at all.
As I said earlier this week, Stevens ought to resign. If he refuses, the Senate should expel him. Top Republicans, including Senator McCain and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agree, and have asked Stevens to step down. However, the Alaska Republican Party still backs Stevens a week before Election Day. Apparently, they'd rather ask voters to send a convicted felon back to Washington than see the Senate seat fall into Democratic hands.
As we learned from our poll last week, the American people have an overwhelming concern about political corruption and very little confidence that either party will deal with the problem. And why would they have any confidence? Democratic candidates made the issue of corruption the centerpiece of their election strategy in 2006 and a substantial chunk of the electorate believes the problem has actually gotten worse!
The election next week presents another golden opportunity for one party or another, one candidate or another, to step up and show leadership on the issue of corruption. Will they take it? Probably not, and that's why your Judicial Watch will continue to be as busy as ever in the years ahead.
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