By Aaron Klein
Gazan brothers’ illicit contributions listed in government campaign filings
JERUSALEM – Palestinian brothers inside the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip are listed in government election filings as having donated $29,521.54 to Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.
Donations of this nature would violate election laws, including prohibitions on receiving contributions from foreigners and guidelines against accepting more than $2,300 from one individual during a single election, Bob Biersack, a spokesman for the Federal Election Commission, told WND in response to a query.
The contributions also raise numerous questions about the Obama campaign’s lax online donation form, which apparently allows for the possibility of foreign contributions.
Last week, the Atlas Shrugs blog outlined a series of donations in 2007 made to Obama’s campaign from two individuals, Monir Edwan and Hosam Edwan, totaling $29,521.54.
In an online form on Obama’s campaign site, the Edwans listed their street as “Tal Esaltan,” which they wrote was located in “Rafah, GA.”
Rafah is not a city in Georgia. The Atlas blog immediately raised concerns that the money may have been donated from the Gaza Strip town of Rafah.
The Edwans’ donations are listed in both FEC filings and other election filing sites, such as CampaignMoney and donordata.org.
Monir made 20 donations ranging from $717 to $2017.50 from October through November 2007. His donations totaled $24321.41. Hosam made seven donations ranging from $508.63 to $1725.96, totaling $5,200.13, all in October 2007.
A WND investigation tracked down the Edwans, who are brothers living in the Tal Esaltan neighborhood of Rafah, a large refugee camp in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
The Edwans are a large clan that include top Hamas supporters.
Speaking to WND, the two brothers praised Obama and admitted giving the money online to his campaign. They said they are not U.S. citizens or green card holders but are citizens of “Palestine.”
The Edwans denied they are affiliated with Hamas. Palestinian sources in Gaza confirmed the Edwans in question are secular, but could not say whether they supported Hamas.
Monir and Hasam Edwan denied their financial transactions online – listed as donations in U.S. government election filings – were actual donations to Obama’s campaign. Instead they claimed they purchased about $30,000 in Obama T-shirts from the presidential candidate’s online store – a contention that did not hold up during a WND interview, when they changed their story several times.
“My brother Hosam and I knew that Obama will be a big hit even before he became a candidate. We knew the guy would be a celebrity in Gaza so we decided to invest the amount of $29,000 to buy Obama T-shirts from his website and sell them in Gaza,” Monir Edwan told WND, speaking by cell phone from Gaza.
“I know on the back of this story Obama rivals will present our business as a donation and they will try to use this story to let Obama fall, but I’m telling you, we bought T-shirts,” Edwan maintained.
Edwan said any profit made from purportedly selling the Obama T-shirts was not returned to the Obama campaign.
“We have nothing to do with the Obama campaign. We just like Obama and believe he will be the best for the Palestinians and for the world.”
At first Monir Edwan claimed he sold the T-shirts in Gaza for around $9 and that a profit was made.
“Some young men even bought the T-shirts for 60 shekel ($17.29), which is a lot to spend in Gaza on a T-shirt, but that is how much Gazans like Obama,” Edwan claimed.
But it was pointed out to Edwan the T-shirts for sale on Obama’s website are listed as $20.08 and that selling the merchandise for less would not yield a profit.
“Maybe we sold the shirts for a lot more. I can’t remember now,” said Edwan.
Asked why he would purchase T-shirts at such a high rate and pay the cost of shipping when he could pay a company to produce T-shirts for less, Edwan replied, “We wanted the shirts to come from the campaign.”
But Edwan could not explain how he managed to get shipments of T-shirts into the Gaza Strip during the months he claimed to have purchased the merchandise, since Israel imposed a tight closure of the Gaza Strip starting in June 2007 that lasted until June 2008, when the Israeli government agreed to a cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza.
“We don’t want to cause any damage to Obama’s campaign,” was Edwan’s reply.
Edwan said he wants Obama to be president.
“Not just the people in Gaza but people from all over the world are rooting for this great man,” he told WND.
FEC spokesman Biersack told WND contributions from overseas are allowed if the donations are coming from U.S. citizens or green card carriers. But he said accepting money from foreigners would violate election provisions.
He said there are strict guidelines against accepting more than $2,300 from one individual during a single election.
“I am not familiar with the particulars of the case, so I am commenting in general. The FEC will have to examine all the circumstances before determining any wrongdoing,” Biersack clarified.
Obama’s campaign did not return WND phone calls or e-mail queries.
That the Edwans were able to contribute any money to Obama’s campaign from Gaza opens questions into the methods used by the presidential candidate’s website to accept online donations.
The website donation form asks each donor to affirm he or she is a U.S. citizen and is above the age of 16 but doesn’t require donors to prove their citizenship status, such as providing a social security number. The form further requires the donor to affirm the contribution is not coming from a corporation, political action committee or lobby group.
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