Obama campaign returning foreign contributions

President Obama's campaign committee wants your money — but only if you happen to be an American citizen. But even those who can't vote and don't live in the U.S. seem intent on handing him money.

Obama, who has attracted adulation from foreign audiences both during the campaign and in early trips to Europe and Egypt, has also attracted more concrete types of support from overseas in the form of thousands of dollars in contributions from foreign nationals.

But under federal election law, the campaign cannot accept foreign money, and the enthusiasm some foreigners have for the president is causing remaining campaign staffers headaches as they try to return the money.

According to Federal Election Commission reports filed last week, Obama for America last quarter returned more than $89,000 to foreign nationals. The foreigners came from 39 countries on six continents, stretching from Uganda to Haiti, Luxembourg to China and Egypt to the Philippines.

Among the donors, a Swiss art historian had $250 returned to him. The campaign is trying to return $300 to a professor of American studies at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. And money is due to a Scottish civil servant, a Greek restaurateur, a French poet and a manager at a Ugandan telecom company.

The Obama campaign has already stretched its accountants to the limits, raising more money — $745 million — than any other campaign in history. And the campaign still employs 12 people, some of whom handle the books and any contributions that flow in.

But those who send in money from overseas present further challenges. The staff has to collect passport information for any expatriates to ensure they're American citizens, and if they can't find that information, the campaign cuts a check and the money goes back.

An Obama spokesman declined to comment on the record for this article.

Federal election law requires illegal contributions to be refunded within 30 days of discovery, and that campaigns not spend any money that could be an illegal contribution until they determine its legality.

Obama's campaign never dipped below the amount of money it would have had to refund. If contributors do not cash checks the campaign sends them, Obama's team can redirect the money to government or charitable organizations.

FEC reports show the campaign made charitable contributions nearing $50,000 to two Chicago organizations, the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Fund and the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, in late June.

J. Sebastian Becker contributed to this article.