The FEC made public today two advisory opinions, AO 2012-26 (m-Qube II) and 2012-28 (CTIA), that clarify the permissibility of political contributions via text message.  Though the FEC gave general approval to text message contributing in AO 2012-17 (m-Qube I), campaigns and service providers sought additional guidance from the FEC to ensure compliance with the Act.  After these two advisory opinions, it is likely that we will see text message political contribution programs start to appear soon.

The two new advisory opinions clarify the following points:

  • Political committees, rather than service providers or the Wireless Association (CTIA), are responsible for determining the eligibility of contributors, as well as monitoring compliance with the recordkeeping and reporting safeguards and requirements described in the proposed process.  This conclusion is due, in part, to the requestors’ decision to limit text message contributions to $50.  Contributions above that amount would place additional responsibilities on vendors that forward contributions to political committees, an issue that will be addressed in a separate advisory opinion request that we blogged about here.
  • Discounts on text message contribution services offered to political committees in the ordinary course of business will not result in prohibited in-kind corporate contributions.
  • Vendors may apply “objective and commercially reasonable” eligibility requirements when offering services to political committees.  This is the case even if it results in the service being provided to some political committees and not others.