You probably don’t give much thought to the three-digit code on the back of your credit card. But a small, bipartisan group of lawmakers thinks political campaigns should be paying a lot more attention to them — in order to keep illicit money from coming into U.S. elections.
Those digits are the focus of a new bill called the “Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act.” The legislation’s main sponsor is Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, a member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus who gained notoriety for boycotting Pope Francis’s address to Congress in September.
Supporters of the legislation say that without the additional verification, foreigners — or others with designs on using fraudulent credit cards — could hypothetically funnel money to political candidates.
“A loophole exists in the current disclosure requirement for online donations that makes it relatively easy for bad actors to circumvent federal contribution levels,” Gosar said during a press conference Wednesday on Capitol Hill, adding that his new bill would “prohibit foreign nationals from cheating the system.”
Most political observers say there hasn’t been widespread evidence of such abuse.
“It is illegal for foreigners to contribute no matter what method they use,” said Ken Gross, a former associate general counsel for the Federal Election Commission. “Is there some evidence that credit cards are being used to get around that restriction? I have not heard of that.”
In 2008 and 2012, Republicans accused President Barack Obama’s campaign of taking foreign money through credit card contributions, but the FEC ultimately dismissed the allegations.
Whatever the risk, many campaigns do require credit card verification when they solicit online donations. Many, but not all.
Among Democratic presidential contenders, only the party’s frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, currently requires this type of verification. Neither of her main rivals, Bernie Sanders nor Martin O’Malley, does.
Nor does former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who briefly sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and is now considering a 2016 bid as an independent.
Among Republican presidential contenders, it’s a different story.