An alternate political text-to-donate model, proposed by the mobile firm Revolution Messaging, has met the approval of the Federal Election Commission.
The firm submitted an advisory opinion request in August—a few weeks after the FEC first approved text contributions to political committees. Revolution Messaging asked the FEC to permit the use of shared digital short codes and allow contributions in excess of the previously imposed $50-per-month and $200-per-election-cycle limits.
“This decision will not only bring this service to political committees faster, but will make it more affordable and open for those using it,” Revolution Messaging CEO Scott Goodstein said in a statement following the FEC’s decision. “It’s a tremendous victory for consumers who will use this technology to support federal PACs of their choosing. Text message fundraising is an innovation we should embrace, but not at the expense of transparency and good policy.”
Both presidential campaigns are already making use of text message donations, which the FEC cleared the way for last month when it gave wireless carriers discretion over which political committees it could offer text-to donate services.
Short code sharing should mean the codes can be issued quickly, and it should allow campaigns to avoid hefty setup and maintenance costs—up to $10,000 or $20,000, according to Goodstein. In its text-to-donate model, Revolution will also keep track of donor names and contribution histories without requiring any information from wireless carriers.
There’s no good reason wireless aggregators can’t adopt the Revolution model, Goodstein says, but CTIA—the wireless industry trade association—has expressed concerns over the practice. In a comment on Revolution Messaging’s advisory opinion request, CTIA said short code sharing “has resulted in payment, recordkeeping and other compliance errors.”
Goodstein thinks the concerns are exaggerated, noting that he’s never witnessed short code sharing affect a business plan or cause a mass exodus from a short code campaign.
Goodstein’s clients include PACs, labor organizations and non-profits, and he thinks the FEC’s ruling should make text-to-donate more efficient and accessible to them. Membership PACs have expressed interest in Revolution’s model, as well as several congressional races, Goodstein tells C&E.
The next stage in the evolution of text donations will likely be the result of AT&T’s recent AOR, which seeks to lower the cost of text-to-donate services without triggering an “in-kind” contribution.
“Hopefully, CTIA is rethinking their stance on this knowing one of the carriers wants to decrease their price,” Goodstein says.