There are a lot of rules governing political campaign donations, especially when you’re talking about a big chunk numbering in the millions or more. But that doesn’t mean micro contributions are overlooked. President Obama’s campaign is reportedly finishing up the final touches on agreements with Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular this week, so that even everyday citizens can express their support via small text-message donations. (AT&T is expected to follow suit later.)
Soon voters will see fundraising appeals at Obama rallies and on fliers or other promos, urging them to give $10 to the Obama for America campaign. Similar to the way people donate money to charities by phone, they’ll be encouraged to text the world “GIVE” to 62262 (“OBAMA” on the dialpad). When the pipes open up — possibly as early as next week — it would mark a historical first. And that’s somewhat apropos, considering Obama’s reputation as the most technologically savvy POTUS the country has ever seen.
Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney may be hitting up a cellular donation strategy as well. Word has it, the Republican candidate is expected to launch SMS donations soon, as his campaign has long connected with supporters using the number 466488 (or “GOMITT”). So the groundwork is already in place, making the shift to fundraising a no-brainer.
Campaign finance is an area fraught with controversy, and in an election year marked by incredibly expensive campaigns, the decidedly mobile-friendly approach is a real head-turner. Although SMS donations have a limit of $10 per text (with $50 monthly, $200 total per campaign), the move may open the floodgates, as an any American mobile user would be able to donate at any time. Considering that there are 330 million wireless subscribers in the U.S., offering them a convenient way to support their favorite candidate could yield some stunning results. It’s feasible that all of those micro donations could amass into enormous amounts — even larger than some of the major contributions kicked in by outside groups and special interests.
Of course, some rules still apply. In addition to the maximum amounts, donations cannot come from foreigners, supporters younger than 18 or from corporations. But even so, with this being a rather heated presidential election year, a flurry of text donations could make a big impact — enough to change the nature of the U.S. campaign finance game forever.