FEC mulls contributions via text

November 11, 2010

By Jim McElhatton-The Washington Times

Americans, already using their cell phones to make charitable contributions or vote for favorite contestants on television shows such as “Dancing With the Stars,” soon could be dialing in campaign contributions to their favorite members of Congress.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is expected to rule within weeks on a bid by the wireless industry to allow small political donations through text messages, potentially opening up a whole new source of cash for politicians and fundraisers.

The plan is proposed by CTIA – The Wireless Association, a powerful Washington trade group, which manages the system of five- and six-digit numbers leased by third-party entities to communicate with and raise money from cell-phone customers.

The donations would be capped at $10 each, according to FEC filings. The group says the proposal would work similarly to how cell-phone users can now make charitable contributions. In the aftermath of the January earthquake in Haiti, for example, the Red Cross raised millions of dollars through text messaging.

But whether the same technology could, or should, belong in politics isn’t yet clear.

The FEC issued a staff report raising concerns about the idea last month, saying in part that the plan could commingle corporate funds and political contributions, which isn’t allowed under federal campaign law.

Caleb P. Burns, a lawyer with Wiley Rein, which represents CTIA, said he spoke for about an hour at a hearing before the FEC commissioners earlier this month to address issues in the staff report. CTIA also agreed to extend a deadline by the FEC to rule on the request until Nov. 22.

Mr. Burns said some of the FEC commissioners expressed an interest in approving portions of the plan, and he was hopeful the final FEC ruling would be more permissive than what the FEC staff originally recommended.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/nov/10/fec-mulls-contributions-via-text/

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