Candidates will be allowed to accept donations via text message after the Federal Election Commission (FEC) unanimously approved such a measure Monday night.
Both President Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s campaigns supported the idea and voiced their support in letters to the FEC. The ruling could open up new roads of revenues in the candidates’ perpetual quest for money.
The FEC approved the measure after two political consulting groups and a “billing aggregator,” m-Qube, submitted their fourth request on the subject, which put to rest FEC commissioners’ fears about compliance.
Text donations would be capped at between $10 and $50 per billing cycle and campaigns would enforce that restriction 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.”
m-Qube wrote that they could block all foreign and pre-paid cellphone numbers to comply with FEC donation regulations. According to the advisory opinion, users will receive a text response following their donation text that reads, for example:
“Reply YES to give $20 to Romney & certify ur 18+ & donating with own funds, not foreign national or Fed contractor. Terms m-qube.com/r Msg&Data Rates may Apply.”
The link to m-Qube’s website will explain terms such as foreign national and federal contractor, and require donors to enter a PIN to confirm they would like to make the contribution.
m-Qube can keep a running, real-time tally of the dollar amount of contributions made via text message from a particular telephone number, which would be available to the campaigns, and allow the aggregator to prevent donor overpayments.
Government watchdog groups also support the measure and see it as a way to make it easier for small donors to participate in the election process and compete with larger interests, as made possible by 2010’s Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision.
Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign, reacted positively following the ruling on Monday night.
“With billionaires and super-PACs drowning out the voices of hardworking Americans, text message campaign contributions can enhance the role of small donors and, combined with public matching funds, could provide a megaphone for the masses,” he said.
Public Campaign and nine other watchdog groups signed a letter in support of the measure, writing: “Small donors are a critical component of our democratic process, and technology can play a crucial role in helping to empower the voices of more Americans. More than 30 million Americans have texted a contribution to a charitable cause, and many people would likely text a donation to a political candidate if the practice is enabled [at the federal level].”
The other nine organizations include: Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Democracy Matters, Demos, Public Citizen, Rootstrikers, United Republic, and U.S. PIRG.