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Intro: "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."

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. (photo: Getty Images)
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. (photo: Getty Images)

Donations to Scott Walker Flagged as Potential Fraud

By Kim Barker, ProPublica

22 May 12


hen 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.

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 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by commenting below.

Update: Ciara Matthews, spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker's campaign, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Monday that the charges identified as potentially fraudulent were "a result of criminals attempting to use stolen credit card information data from sources other than the campaign." Matthews also said that the campaign constantly reviews its security procedures to ensure contributors are protected. No word on who the criminals were, whether charges are being pursued or what the campaign has done to improve the security of its online donations. A phone call and email to Matthews to clarify her statement were not returned. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+28 # sgmp 2012-05-22 09:17
I hope someone gets to the bottom of this and we learn who IS responsible. Unbelivable!!!
+36 # CoyoteMan50 2012-05-22 09:25
Yes but they have access to credit card names and account numbers thru their good friends at Skank of America.
Another bunch of sleaze-balls who belong in jail!
-33 # HowardMH 2012-05-22 09:59
When is somebody, anybody going to jail over this kind of fraud???

Oh, thats right Obama the Wimp wouldn't want to upset anyone on Wall Street.
+42 # jack113 2012-05-22 10:33
Quoting HowardMH:
When is somebody, anybody going to jail over this kind of fraud???

Oh, thats right Obama the Wimp wouldn't want to upset anyone on Wall Street.

Considering it's Walker doing the theft I am not surprised to see teabaggers blaming Obama again and not surprised at all that Walker would step this low under the guidance of the Koch brothers.

Capital One is one of the Wall Street banks that caused our economic downfall and people just do not seen to learn. Do business with small banks and credit unions and get rid of the national banksters.
+16 # redjelly39 2012-05-22 10:48
Nobody is accountable and our elected officials dont get to make any real decisions. They have a million ways to make your life worse but no options available to make it better - and anyone telling you otherwise, is blowing smoke up your a...
There is a powerful force that's getting in the way of our thriving.
It's a select group of financial elite who are centralizing material wealth and power for their own benefit, while destroying the lives of billions of others. Their worldview is riddled with fear and ignorant of the abundance of nature and interconnectedn ess that is our essence.
Thrive - is a free online movie that explains why our Energy, Food, Health, Rights, Education & Financial system are controlled. You can follow the money to see how the same people are gaining financially in every sector of human life. You can also see how an agenda for global domination is being accomplished, and the kind of deceptive strategies and tactics that are being used to further our suppression.
It can be challenging to confront the cruelty of this global domination agenda, but it’s only by recognizing the true nature of the threats to our freedom that we can be empowered to act effectively. Its up to US to understand & take action - together...
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Bluffdale Spy Center -
+36 # Montague 2012-05-22 11:15
I have one question for Walker's spokesperson: why would "criminals" steal money and give it to Walker's campaign? Very generous thieves!
+20 # Laardvark 2012-05-22 13:54
Who else would give to Walker's campaign? It isn't a gift- just an investment.
+11 # lorenbliss 2012-05-22 16:00
Sounds like that infamous Dooh Nirob is now working for Walker, robbing the poor, ensuring his survival by giving most of the take to the rich.
+3 # rockieball 2012-05-23 12:58
It is to be expected from REPUBLICON'S the kings of fraud lie's and dirty tricks.
0 # ENetArch 2012-05-24 21:57
I find it interesting that Capital One is flagging donations to Scott Walker's campaign, and yet commenters are complaining that big banks are interfering with their right to make donations. Personally, I find it more interesting that Capital One (if they are at fault) is choosing to disrupt Scott Walker's donations in this manner.

Concerning the other point about donor fraud, every time you give your credit card information over the web, you are trusting the website to handle the information appropriately. They can hold onto it, and as was reported, if they are holding onto it, they may also be exposing it. Now here's the question I have, why does a campaign committee need to hold onto your credit card information once the confirmation has been received? In fact no respectable eCommerce website does this.

As to the third point brought up by some commentors about banks gobbling up banks, please remember that Credit Unions are member owned and operated, and are restricted from selling out to big banks. As such, the share holders (individual depositors) are able to annually review the banks lending policies and adjust them as needed to restrict risky bets or complex banking transactions - like those from JP Morgan / Chase.
0 # bingers 2012-05-25 07:19
No wonder Walker has a $100,000+ criminal defense fund. BTW, criminal defense funds are illegal for politicians to have unless they are either charged with a crime or under active investigation for a crime, and considering how many felonies his people have been charged with and aome who have pled guilty, it's pretty much a fact that he's committed a crime. If not, the fund itself is a crime.

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