FEC Puts on Hold a Call to Allow Texting of Political Contributions

I don't text (hence this post's absence of the "pretend texting" so endemic to such stories). And I don't contribute to political campaigns.

So it is with a detached outsider's viewpoint that I applaud the Federal Election Commission for applying the brakes to a push by the mobile communications industry that would allow individuals to make political contributions via text message.

From an ABC News report:

An advisory report from the Federal Election Commission voiced concerns that the program would not adequately "separate corporate funds from political contributions" and would allow people to exceed the $50 limit for anonymous donations. It left the door open, however, for a new proposal for texted donations, provided it meets certain conditions.

Caleb Burns, a lawyer for the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), the trade group that submitted the proposal in September, said he was "disappointed" in the FEC's recent advisory opinion, and that "CTIA and its members must now assess whether implementing those requirements is economically viable."

In essence, the FEC decided that granting the CTIA its wish unilaterally would create a new political fund-raising pipeline ripe for abuse and a roster of donors exempt from public accountability. (The regulatory caution, while laudable, seems almost quaint in the anything-goes aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United.)

My guess is the industry will find a way to make the numbers work and the FEC eventually will come around. Not because it'll be good for grass-roots democracy or because the current prohibition is a "regulatory relic," as CTIA's attorney alleges, but because the CTIA's membership knows full well it can turn a buck off all those itty-bitty text messages.

As they say, money is the mother's milk of politics.

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