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Some Donations to Scott Walker Flagged as Potential Fraud

Posted on May 21, 2012
ra_hurd (CC BY 2.0)

By Kim Barker, ProPublica

This piece originally appeared at ProPublica.

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When MaryAnn Nellis tried to pay for groceries on April 14, her credit card was declined. Later, she said, she found out why: Her credit card company, Capital One, had flagged an earlier purchase as potentially fraudulent. The problem? A $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor’s campaign committee, Nellis said. 

Nellis told a Capital One representative she had not made the donation to Walker, who is fighting an effort to recall him as governor in a closely watched, expensive election set for June 5.

“Over my dead body,” said Nellis, a potter and retired teacher in upstate New York who describes herself as “adamantly angry and upset” at Republicans such as Walker. Nellis disputed the charge and she was issued a new card.

Though the amount of money was small, ProPublica decided Nellis’ complaint was worth following up. There have been other reports recently about insecure campaign-donation websites and the potential for fraud. Earlier this month, The Washington Times reported that Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Republican Mitt Romney, was using a collection system that made online donors’ credit card information accessible to even amateur snoopers.


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At ProPublica’s request, Nellis called Capital One and asked a representative about the $5 charge to Friends of Scott Walker.

“She told me that they watch for fraudulent merchants who will put through a bunch of charges that are not legitimate,” Nellis said. “I said, ‘The fraudulent merchant here was Friends of Scott Walker, right?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’ They had a little flag on any Scott Walker activity.”

As an experiment, a ProPublica employee also made a $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker on her Capital One card on May 10. Almost immediately, Walker’s campaign sent an email thanking her. Less than a minute after that, Capital One emailed a fraud protection alert, saying the company “noticed potentially suspicious activity” on her account and asking her to call fraud protection as soon as possible.

When she inquired, a Capital One representative said the donation wasn’t in line with her spending pattern and “our fraud department had some potential fraud concerns on the account.”

Another $5 donation, made to Walker’s opponent on the Capital One card, was not flagged as potentially fraudulent. Neither was a $5 donation to Friends of Scott Walker made on an American Express card. (The employee is seeking refunds of all three donations.)

We called Friends of Scott Walker and eZcontribution, the Wisconsin company that runs the website handling donations for Walker’s campaign, for an explanation, but no one would answer our questions.

Walker’s campaign spokeswoman, Ciara Matthews, emailed ProPublica on May 10 under the subject line of “follow up.” 

“I received a message about the story you are doing,” she wrote. “The campaign does not comment on internal matters.” 

“How about allegations of credit-card fraud?” we wrote back. “That’s hardly internal, it’s external.”

Matthews did not reply.

Ultimately, all we can say at this point is that Capital One appears to be flagging donations to Friends of Scott Walker as potentially fraudulent. 

If anyone out there has had similar issues with online donations to Walker or other political campaigns, please let us know via email or by commenting below. 


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oddsox's avatar

By oddsox, May 22, 2012 at 6:51 am Link to this comment

correction:  should read “(Tea Party) website is already buzzing about turning WI RED in November.”

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By Margaret Currey, May 22, 2012 at 4:35 am Link to this comment
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Walker and Romney have one thing in common they will do and say anything to win.

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oddsox's avatar

By oddsox, May 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm Link to this comment

June 5—Wisconsin’s recall election: Gov. Scott Walker vs. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
In 2003, California’s Governmor Gray Davis was sucessfully recalled, but that was small cheese compared to this.

Reason: both sides think they’re holding a full house and the betting the farm.
A successful recall would undo a big piece of the 2010 Republican mid-term election momentum, and be a direct slapdown of the Tea Party.
If Walker prevails, the Tea Party will be similarly emboldened.  Their website is already buzzing about turning WI blue in November.
Unions, in the public sector especially, also have much at stake. 
The election is not a referrendum on their existance, but one would think so from the level of committed support they have invested.
Much Union face will be saved or lost on June 5.

Two media personalities will be especially impacted: 
—MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, who has all but moved to the Dairy State to support the recall.
Frequent broadcasts of the Ed Show have dated back to the earliest protests and petitions.
Schultz celebrated the 1 million-signature petition drive as a grass-roots proof that the little guy can stand up against conservative power brokers like the Koch Bros, even on their own turf.
He has repeatedly ripped into Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives along the way. 
He’s all-in.
If the recall passes, Schultz will rightfully claim top-shelf status among Progressive TV pundits.
A loss won’t ruin Schultz’s career.  But it will likely cost his credibility in much the same way unopened vaults have branded Geraldo Rivera’s.

—Then there’s the aforementioned Rush Limbaugh. 
2012 has already been a rough year for Limbaugh. 
He, too, could use a boost.
Rush has pretended not to notice Schultz’s attacks (“who’s he again?”), and has bragged on his own ratings and those of Fox News which are higher than MSNBC’s. 
Limbaugh recently crowed that the DNC isn’t contributing to the recall effort because they think the cause is lost.
“They’ve given up,” says Rush. 
Limbaugh generally avoids predicting election results, as his track record is what you’d expect of a man of his girth.*
(with respect:  not throwing stones from my own glass house here…)
But it’s plain Rush thinks the recall will be defeated. 
If it is, look for a summer blizzard of new “Rush is Right” bumper stickers.
But if the recall wins, it’ll further damage his weak record as a prognosticator. 
He’ll probably swear off of picking winners for a long while, which is as close as his enemies will ever get to silencing him.

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