Firms ask FEC to approve anonymous political giving via text message

The request would limit any text donations from between $10 and $50 per billing cycle and would enforce that cap through tracking donations from “a single user’s mobile phone number” to a single “premium short code” assigned to the political committee. The short code would also enable the aggregator and carriers to ensure “the $50 limit is never exceeded for one political recipient.” 

Because these limits can be tracked, these small anonymous contributions “do not pose a threat or corruption” and “do not need to be investigated,” the request states. In addition, donations of less than $50 are allowed to be anonymous already, Engle and Kappel said.

"If a contribution is $50 or less, the Treasurer is relieved of her reporting and recordkeeping requirements. ... This exemption from record keeping should be interpreted to mean exactly that; there is no requirement to create a record of the identity of any contributor who has contributed $50 or less," the counsels wrote. 

The counsels also promoted the use of cellphone donations as a way to increase the presence of small donors in the campaign process. Allowing the contributions from cellphones could counter the new campaign finance world of super-PACs, where big donations overshadow small donations, they wrote. 

“Through modern day texting we can return to the days when candidates could receive a large number of small contributions rather than trying to raise a small number of large contributions,” Engle and Kappel wrote.

Keeping the donations anonymous could also “encourage participation by some citizens in the political process who may be sensitive to recording or disclosure of their political preferences,” the counsels said.

Contributors would also be required to “certify that his/her contributions are in compliance” with federal law, in accordance with current FEC guidelines.

The counsels’ finished their request by reminding the commission that other industries see the benefits of the changing and expanding wireless world. It is time for political committees to join in, Engle and Kappel wrote. 

“Political committees and consulting firms today see the wireless industry bringing speed, information, entertainment, communications and even banking and bill paying into the hands of all businesses and consumers,” Engle and Kappel wrote.

“The Commission should allow political committees, too, to have access to this amazing system that our nation has so enthusiastically embraced.”