The Republican National Committee filed a complaint Monday alleging that Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign has received illegal contributions from foreigners and donations that exceed federal limits.
The complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission is based largely on media reports, including one from a conservative news Web site that suggests donors who listed their state as "IR" may have been from Iran. In FEC reports, the designation "IR" typically stands for "information requested" because the donor did not supply it.
In the complaint, the RNC asks the commission to audit Obama's campaign fund to determine whether it has violated the law by accepting money from non-citizens and whether individual donors have exceeded contributions to the campaign.
In response, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said, "We constantly review our donors for any issues and while no organization is completely protected from Internet fraud, we will continue to review our fundraising procedures to ensure that we are taking every available step to root out improper contributions."
Federal law prohibits contributions from foreign nationals, and individuals are limited to contributions of no more than $2,300 per election. That means a person can contribute $2,300 to Obama for the primary elections and $2,300 for the general election.
The FEC routinely has notified both campaigns that their cumulative financial reports show many contributors have exceeded the limits.
The RNC complaint says Obama's campaign has remedied several excessive contributions but has "failed to refund or reattribute the full excessive portion in all situations." A Newsweek report says Obama had reported more than $17,000 in contributions from a donor identified as "Doodad Pro" and more than $11,000 from one identified as "Good Will."
The complaint also cites an article by Newsmax.com, a conservative news Web site, that asserts that a database of FEC records shows "questionable overseas donations that contains more than 11,500 contributions totaling more than $33.8 million."
But an FEC analysis of donors whose home state identification did not match any of the 50 states or the District of Columbia yielded about 8,000 individual contributions totaling only $1.1 million. Of those, more than 2,400 were armed services post offices or from Puerto Rico, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose residents are U.S. citizens.
More than $500,000 came from donors who listed their state as "ZZ," or which the campaign designated as "NA" for "not available" or "IR" for "information requested." In most cases, the cities listed were foreign.
By contrast, McCain had only 330 donations that identified non-U.S. states and most were from armed services post offices or Puerto Rico.
In August, The Associated Press identified 6,948 contributions from people who appeared to live outside the United States and who were not obviously in the U.S. military. The AP contacted 123 donors in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland and interviewed them about their citizenship and donations.
The review found that Obama's campaign accepted contributions from at least three foreigners.
Though federal law required campaigns to identify only donors who contribute in excess of $200, McCain's Web site lists all donors to his campaign. Independent watchdog organizations have asked the Obama campaign to do the same; it has not.
Obama's campaign, which is not accepting public financing for the general election, has raised more than $468 million. About half has come from small donors, a point of pride for the campaign.