FEC Commissioner ‘Doesn’t Know’ If Analysts Can Catch Foreign Contributions

By Josiah Ryan | November 3, 2008 | 7:05pm EST
(CNSNews.com) - A commissioner from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) told CNSNews.com on Monday she is unsure if the FEC has any mechanisms in place to prevent political campaigns from accepting contributions from foreign nationals.
The Associated Press reported on Friday that Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign had accepted $260 from Obama’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, who is a Kenyan national living illegally in Boston. Onyango, according the Associated Press, listed her employer as the Boston Housing Authority. 
By law, only U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents can contribute to federal election campaigns.
“You know, I honestly don’t know the answer to that question,” Ellen Weintraub, who is one of six commissioners of the FEC, told CNSNews.com when asked if there is any mechanism in place within the commission to prevent foreign nationals from donating to political campaigns.
“I don’t know whether that’s one of the things our analysts look at, but they ask a lot of questions. I know that,” she said.
Weintraub added that it has been “on her mind” to sit down with an FEC analyst and “watch him do his job one of these days.”
“If there are irregularities someone will point them out to us,” Weintraub said when CNSNews.com asked her if discovering irregularities involving foreign nationals was entirely the duty of opposing campaigns and reporters.
“I think, like I said, there are big opposition research departments in each party and in each campaign, and if they see names—well, you know, I suspect anyway that there are people that look at foreign-sounding names and look at the addresses,” Weintraub said.
Weintraub said individuals making campaign contributions are not required to furnish the FEC with their Social Security Numbers.
Weintraub was speaking at a seminar sponsored by the Information For Economic Systems (IFFS) entitled “Campaign Finance – The Best President Money Can Buy” at the Capitol Hilton in Washington on Monday.
According to the FEC’s official website, it is the responsibility of the FEC to “administer and enforce the statutes that governs the financing of federal elections.”
The FEC is ruled by six commissioners who are appointed by the president for six-year terms. Weintraub was appointed by President George W. Bush in December 2002.
Fox News reported on Saturday that Obama said he had been unaware his aunt was living in the U.S. illegally and that his campaign would return her contributions.

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