The New York Times has an interesting story today about the number of fake donors who show up in presidential campaign finance data.
The newspaper’s analysis (done by former Oklahoman Database Editor Griff Palmer), found that more than 3,000 donations to Democrat Barack Obama had fictitious donor information of some kind, including names that were gibberish and people listing their occupation and employer as “Loving/You.”
An analysis of campaign finance records by The New York Times this week found nearly 3,000 donations to Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, from more than a dozen people with apparently fictitious donor information. The contributions represent a tiny fraction of the record $450 million Mr. Obama has raised. But the questionable donations — some donors were listed simply with gibberish for their names — raise concerns about whether the Obama campaign is adequately vetting its unprecedented flood of donors.
It is unclear why someone making a political donation would want to enter a false name. Some perhaps did it for privacy reasons. Another, more ominous possibility, of course, is fraud, perhaps in order to donate beyond the maximum limits.
There is no evidence that questionable contributions amount to anything more than a small portion of Mr. Obama’s fund-raising haul. The Times’s analysis, conducted over a few days and looking for obvious anomalies, like names or addresses with all consonants, identified about $40,000 in suspect contributions that had not been refunded by the campaign as of its last filing with the Federal Election Commission, in September.
Here in Oklahoma, I frequently see data entry errors in the state campaign reports filed with the Ethics Commission. While we try to clean the data as best we can when we analyze it for the newspaper or online, it goes back to one of the mantras of database administrators and analysts: “garbage in, garbage out.”
Written by Paul Monies