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Why Political Donation By Text Message Ain’t Happening Soon

So you’ve probably thought the same thing I have over the past two weeks as millions of dollars from millions of Americans have been donated to the Red Cross for Haitian earthquake relief:  Imagine if that could happen for political campaigns.

Nate Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report has a great column explaining why such a thing is currently highly illegal with FEC rules and regulations.  That being said, it’s not like someone isn’t thinking of a way to make it copacetic with the letter of the law.

It may be the “new stream of philanthropy,” a Verizon Wireless spokesman told the Associated Press, but there are some significant roadblocks before federal candidates can do the same thing.

First of all, candidates and campaign committees need to collect basic information about all donors including their name, address, and occupation. This is not necessarily prohibitive but candidates would need to establish a “best effort” to obtain the information after the contribution, according to a Federal Election Commission spokesman. This is more of a practical roadblock than a legal one.

But more importantly, collecting political contributions via text messaging may run afoul of the law because corporations are prohibited from being conduits for contributions. In order for the transaction to work, cell carriers such as Verizon, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, or AT&T would have to collect the contribution on the bill and then write a check to the particular campaign.

Keep in mind, the FEC has not issued a formal advisory opinion on the matter of accepting contributions via text (mainly because no candidate has requested one). Until that time comes, we won’t have a definitive answer on the legality of the issue.

One wonders who will be the first.

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