"Attorney General Eric Holder agreed to meet with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Tuesday as part of his attempt to stave off a vote to hold him in contempt of Congress." - The Hill, 6/19/12
We are a week late on mentioning this on the blog, but since it is a major development in terms of campaign finance we still wanted to touch upon it.
Last week the FEC ruled in favor of the use of text messaging by political committees to receive contributions. The ruling came when the FEC issued an advisory opinion requested by m-Qube, Inc (it was their fourth request). Here’s an excerpt from the press release:
The Commission concluded Monday that m-Qube, Inc.’s proposal that would allow political committees to use mobile phone text messaging to collect contributions is consistent with the recordkeeping and reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended, (the Act) and Commission regulations and conforms to the Act’s prohibition on corporate contributions. The Commission further concluded that the proposal does not implicate the contribution forwarding requirements of the Act and satisfies the segregation requirement for commercial vendors that process political contributions.
We wrote a few weeks ago about the possibility of this development as the FEC begins to embrace more and more initiatives to engage the small donor — or those who contribute $200 or less.
Megan Wilson of The Hill wrote last week about how the text messaging will work:
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.
As mentioned, many believe that this service will give more citizens an opportunity to become involved in a world of campaign finance that seems to be dominated by Super PACs. The Hill continues:
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].”
Former FEC chairman Michael Toner also chimed in on the development via Twitter:
Expect bursts of presidential txt msg contributions when VP choice is made,convention acceptance speech nights & during the 3 fall debates.
We believe that the decision by the FEC is a positive one in attempting to engage small donors into the process, which is a main motive behind skimmerhat as well. It will be interesting to follow how and to what extent this option for contributing to campaigns is used by citizens.