In a rare sign of bipartisan unity, the Federal Election Commission unanimously approved a proposal late Monday that will allow federal candidates and campaign committees to accept political donations via text message.
The move, advocated by politicians on both sides of the aisle including President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, is aimed at giving average Americans a greater role in the Democratic process. It also opens up a potentially lucrative way for candidates to not only raise quick cash from small donors but also expand their voter outreach lists.
Under the FEC rule approved last night, federal candidates, parties and political committees can immediately start accepting donations via texts—though it may take weeks before the system is fully functional. The rule allows individual donors to contribute up to $50 to candidates and committees per each monthly cell phone billing cycle.
Not unlike charitable contributions, donors will contribute by texting to a special code assigned to a specific candidate or political committee. They will then receive a message confirming their donation and listing the candidate or group they are contributing to. The donations will be tracked by m-Cube, an outside vendor that was among the organizations that petitioned the FEC to allow political contributions via text.
The company told the FEC it will be able to prevent excessive campaign contributions by tracking how many donations come from a specific cell phone each month. In addition, the company said it will also block contributions from prepaid cell phones and from foreign numbers—a concern that had prompted the FEC to reject previous petitions asking for permission to raise campaign cash via text messaging.