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Add this one to the many ways chain e-mails are spreading false information in the campaign: bogus columns.
A new chain e-mail, echoed by dozens of blog postings, claims to have a column from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd that criticizes Sen. Barack Obama for accepting suspicious contributions from Iran, Saudi Arabia and China.
It has Dowd's byline and a headline that says "OBAMA'S TROUBLING INTERNET FUND RAISING." Some versions of the e-mail even have Dowd's picture.
The column, which is dated June 29, 2008, says Dowd got a call from "one of the Obama's campaign [sic] internet geeks" who told her the campaign has received a flood of small contributions from overseas. The contributors were difficult to trace, the column says, but they came from a small number of banks and credit cards in various countries, particularly from "Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other Middle Eastern countries."
The column says that "another concentrated group of donations was traced to a Chinese ISP (Internet provider) with a similar pattern of limited credit card charges."
The column says campaign officials were aware "these donations were very likely coming from sources other than American voters," but they concluded it was legal to accept them. Federal law prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to the presidential campaigns, but donations from Americans living overseas are legal and fairly common.
The column calls the decision to accept them "a shocking revelation" and says the Obama campaign should be audited. (You can find the full text of the e-mail here .)
The column is a fake. Dowd told us she did not write it and that "It just seems like anyone who is familiar with my column would know this wasn't me."
For more detail on how the e-mail spread, see our story Bogus Dowd column spreads quickly.
It's not clear who wrote the column. One of the early appearances of the column was when it was posted June 29, 2008, on a blog on AZCentral, the Arizona Republic newspaper site, by someone identified as Thomas Moore. In his bio, he describes himself as "a retired journalist/technical writer/illustrator" and a fan of Barry Goldwater. His photo on the blog is a computer animation of a man waving a McCain sign, although Moore has no apparent ties to the McCain campaign.
When someone pointed out on his blog that the column was a fake, Moore wrote, "It appears that I may be the fool for posting the editorial, since I don't find it on the NYT Website, either. I'm checking with the friend who sent it to me, as to whether he copied it directly from the Website."
But Moore then mused that it still might be accurate and that the New York Times might have pulled the column from the Web site because the newspaper feared a lawsuit.
Moore could not be reached for comment. A posting on his blog from Monday said he was departing for a long sailing vacation.
"I should return in September," he wrote, "so in my absence please torment the liberals just as if I were here."
The Obama campaign says it follows federal law and does not accept donations from foreign citizens. Donors must certify that "I am a United States citizen or a lawfully-admitted permanent resident."
Because the column is fake and provides no factual evidence to back up its assertion about foreign contributions, we don't consider there is enough evidence to address the allegation here. The issue for the Truth-O-Meter is whether Dowd wrote the column. She didn't, which makes the claim False.
AZCentral blog of Thomas moore, OBAMA'S TROUBLING INTERNET FUND RAISING June 29, 2008
Obama campaign blog of Dave McLane, Maureen Dowd spoof spreads, July 4, 2008
The Dowd Report, Hoax Dowd Column Making The Rounds, July 8, 2008
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