In the wake of the wildly successful mobile fund raising campaign for earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, my Mom emailed me with a thought: could candidates do the same thing to raise money for a political campaign. The answer: while this method worked very well for Haiti, it may be more trouble than it’s worth for 2010 candidates.
The Rothenberg Political Report discussed some of the regulatory hurdles earlier this week:
First of all, candidates and campaign committees need to collect basic information about all donors including their name, address, and occupation. This is not necessarily prohibitive but candidates would need to establish a “best effort” to obtain the information after the contribution, according to a Federal Election Commission spokesman. This is more of a practical roadblock than a legal one.
Rothenberg also points out restrictions on corporate giving directly to campaigns, which would make it necessary to have an intermediary firm collecting and processing donations.
Then there’s the campaign cost: while the carriers likely waived any fees they would have collected for the Haiti effort, a similar fund raising program might result in charges of up to 40% of the donations, according to one industry source. That means for every $10 you donate, a campaign might see $6 – and less if there’s an third party processing the campaigns. Considering the up-front costs of creating the program and sending the texts, the program would have to be wildly successful to pay for itself.
Mobile and text messaging will continue to be important conduits for get-out-the-vote efforts and other messages from a campaign direct to voters, but the infrastructure to turn your cell phone into a “donate now” button isn’t there right now.