If big corporate money changed America’s political atmosphere for the worse, grassroots social media money may on the brink of changing it for the better.
In a unanimous vote on Monday night, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) agreed that political donations via text messages should be allowed, empowering mobile phone owners — who make up more than 90 percent of Americans — to become a grassroots force in elective politics.
The system being set up to will require political groups, candidates and committees to advertise a five-digit numerical code that donors could send a text to, certifying their intent to contribute a set dollar amount, usually $5 or $10.
Donors will be limited to a maximum of $50 per month charged to their phone bills. The companies responsible for delivering the donoations will not provide donor names or addresses to any political committees, but phone numbers will be attached. The system will also accept text message donations from prepaid phone networks, but recipients will have the opportunity to block any number at any time, for any reason.
The move was supported by the campaigns of both President Barack Obama (D) and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R), along with 15 Democratic members of Congress. They were joined by an assortment of advocacy groups, including the Campaign Legal Center, Public Citizen, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Democracy Matters.
“Small donors are a critical component of our democratic process, and technology can play a crucial role in helping to empower the voices of more Americans,” the groups wrote in a letter to the FEC, sent last week. “More than 30 million Americans have texted a contribution to a charitable cause, and many people would likely text a donation to a political candidate if the practice is enabled.”
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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