How Texting Donations Boosts Democracy

How Texting Donations Boosts Democracy

Showing financial support for a presidential candidate is only a text message away, as mobile-based donations ramp up for the fall 2012 election campaigns.

The Federal Election Commission, or FEC, approved financial donations to political campaigns via text message after a surprising moment of bipartisan agreement. The new rule goes into effect immediately, although it may take a little time to get the system running smoothly.

The texting donation will operate along the same lines as charity donations, where people can text a set amount to be billed to their number. This new system targets lower-income political supporters who want to make modest donations, and the maximum amount the texting system will handle is $50.

Even though the FEC opened up a new channel for revenue with this decision, campaign reform advocates applauded the change, noting that this will raise the impact and profile of small donors and diminish the role of super PACs, which contribute large sums of money to candidates’ campaigns via special-interest and lobbying groups. The Obama and Romney campaigns both endorsed the move as well.

The American Majority Foundation, a conservative group that poured money into “Gravity”, a smartphone app to organize Romney supporters, will likely mobilize its base to make small donations using this new text-friendly provision, as will liberal groups focusing on rallying everyday people instead of super-PAC donors.

This move demonstrates how critical mobile technology is becoming to high-profile elections. The Obama campaign’s prowess with social media and the Internet helped swing the last election towards a victory. Recently the incumbent made headlines by adopting Square’s mobile payment system early on and already has cultivated significant presences on social media sits like Facebook and Instagram, but Romney is gaining credibility by wooing big names in Silicon Valley. Also the fact that his campaign approved this strategy shows it is becoming more tech-savvy.

Besides encouraging ease and making it convenient to donate money at the touch of keypad, this policy change allows people of all financial situations to contribute manageable amounts of money to the political candidates of their choice, and helps citizens feel like they are making an impact in political races. And, if these donations amount to sizable sums, the trend could reaffirm the importance of grassroots support, and potentially re-orient elections — if only very slightly — back towards people instead of corporate support.

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