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California to allow political donations via text message

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No longer just for keeping in touch and playing Angry Birds, your phone could serve a new purpose: donating to your favorite political candidate.

California became the first state in the country Thursday to allow political donations via text message, Politico reported.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission approved text donations in a 3-0 vote Thursday, so long as the names and addresses of donors who made contributions of more than $100 were obtained and reported to the election board. The change will take effect in 30 days, the LA Times reported.

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Individual carriers will be in charge of setting up their own means of facilitating text donation.

Ann Ravel, the chairwoman of the commission, said that the rule change would bring open government into the 21st century.

“We have an obligation to bring more people into our democratic process,” Ravel said. “This is one small step we are taking to allow this to happen and to allow people who can’t go to big fundraisers that are $1,000 a head or more to participate.”

Phillip Ung, a policy advocate for government accountability and ethics group California Common Cause, endorsed the new rule and agreed that text donations could encourage more small donations from a greater number of people.

“We will work with the commission to ensure the program is not gamed by those of the political establishment or used illegally,” he told the Times.

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Not everyone is cheering the plan, however. Mike Altschul, senior vice president at CTIA-The Wireless Industry Association, told Politico that his group stands against the law.

“We oppose today’s action by the California Fair Political Practices Commission because it needlessly places wireless carriers in the middle of a conflict between federal and state campaign finance laws,” he said. “CTIA looks forward to working with California FPPC on alternative mobile payment mechanisms that harness the benefits of wireless technology without creating legal conflicts.”

The CTIA stated concerns about the ability to limit donation sizes, making sure foreign nationals did not donate and accurately report donor information to comply with Federal Election Commission rules.

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Ravel, however, said that she was confident that California could legally implement the text program.

Creative Commons image via flickr user joi.

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