“North Carolina has become the 31st state to add an amendment on marriage to its constitution, with voters banning same-sex marriage and barring legal recognition of unmarried couples by state and local governments.” - News Observer, 5/9/12
An interesting article was published by Politico a couple days ago that reviewed all the ways the FEC is beginning to loosen campaign finance restrictions on Internet and mobile technology.
Donors will be able to give to candidates and campaigns through shopping rebated programs and texts, just to name a few.
But this push to allow Americans to leverage the Internet and technology to make donations comes down to a certain type of donor — the small donor. We’ve written before how the small donor can make an impact, especially when candidates leverage technology. And it seems many others, in addition to the FEC, are seeing that trend as well.
The difference in this type of donor is even more pronounced with so much talk and angst centered around PACs and Super PACs (remember a recent study showed that 196 Americans gave 80% of all Super PAC money in 2011, which equates to .000063 percent of all Americans).
Taken together, the new programs could help recruit legions of new political contributors who can’t afford to cut a $2,500 check to a campaign or wire $1 million to a super PAC, but wouldn’t think twice about firing off 10 bucks through their iPhones to their favorite Republican or Democrat.
And the new landscape could help small-dollar donors compete with big bucks flowing into politics from the likes of super PAC givers Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Cash from smaller donors “can absolutely be a counterweight to super PACs,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance attorney at Arent Fox who is representing the groups pushing for donations via text.
He pointed to President Barack Obama and the unprecedented number of small donations he raised during the 2008 cycle, which helped fuel his rise to the White House.
Donations via text messaging, in particular, could revolutionize political giving, campaign finance experts say.
Instead of wooing wealthy donors to write big checks, candidates could encourage a crowd full of supporters to make an impulse donation by punching a few keys.
It’s a fundraising tactic that has already yielded big bucks for charities, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters.
The Federal Election Commission is expected to weigh in on the legality of campaign donations via text by next month.
With more tools given to Americans, the likelihood of more citizens becoming engaged in the political process increases as well, according to a group pushing for the addition of text contributions.
The text message proposal, for example, earned the backing of several prominent government reform groups and a union, including Public Campaign, the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Communication Workers of America, Democracy Matters, Demos, Public Citizen, Rootstrikers, United Republic and U.S. PIRG.
“In addition to amplifying the voices of small donors, it can increase civic engagement by bringing more people into the process and enable members of Congress to spend more time with constituents and less time dialing for dollars,” the groups wrote in a letter to the FEC.
Campaign finance deregulation advocates, for their part, laud the decisions’ 1st Amendment implications, praising the FEC for improving peoples’ ability to exercise their political speech rights.
“They’re all great ideas, and the FEC needs to keep helping move campaigns into the modern era,” said David Keating, president of the pro-campaign deregulation group Center for Competitive Politics.“By allowing voters more options, you enhance their ability to participate in campaigns.”
It is exciting the see these evolutions in campaign finance. We believe the power of the individual in the political process is strong when the right tools and opportunities are available.
And when individuals gather together behind a belief or group of ideas, they can change the country. Regardless of special interests, lobbyists and PACs or Super PACs.