Last month, the FEC approved a method for contributing to federal political committees by text message (AO 2012-17), but noted that the process described in that AO might not be the only permissible method. Since that opinion, there have already been additional requests that seek clarification of the Commission’s rules on text message contributions. On Monday, Revolution Messaging filed an advisory opinion request asking the Commission to allow the following two variations in the approved method.
1) Contributing by text message is not just for the anonymous anymore. Previous AO requests on text message contributions have been based on proposals that cap contributions at $50 per wireless billing cycle. Keeping contributions under $50 allowed the FEC to conclude the request fit within its rule permitting small anonymous contributions. Revolution Messaging says that the $50 monthly cap is unnecessary. They propose a process that requires text message contributors to fill out identifying information on a webform before being allowed to exceed the $50 “anonymous” threshold. They state that this will conform with the recordkeeping and reporting requirements of the Act (including the disclosure of individuals who contribute over $200 per election cycle or calendar year).
2) Political committees can share text messaging numbers. The approved FEC method for contributing via text message relied on each political committee using a unique text message number (a “short code”) to receive contributions. Revolution Messaging says this is too expensive for smaller campaigns (costs for obtaining a unique short code can run up to $10,000), and takes too much time (possibly 12 weeks to get a unique code). Revolution Messaging asks the FEC if committees can share these numbers, assuring that the use of unique keywords and confirmation messages will allow the proper tracking and segregation of funds.
It is clear that the use of technology in political campaigns is rapidly increasing. We expect the number of tech-based AO requests to stay high while companies try to make sure the FEC keeps up with their innovations.