California to Allow Political Contributions via Text Message


Congratulations to California's political watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, for voting last week to allow political contributions by text message. The commission voted 3-0 to approve the change. California is taking a big step toward bringing campaigns into the modern era.

California is the first state to allow contributions via text message, but it certainly will not be the last. Like online voter registration, I believe it is only a matter of time until this change will become the norm.

Candidates must report the identity and address of contributors who give more than $100. However, at least in the near future, it will likely be small donors who avail themselves of this new avenue for supporting their preferred candidates. This seems to be a logical extension of the online donor model so adeptly used by President Obama in the 2008 campaign. Online fundraising is sure to continue. In addition, members of the electorate may be familiar with their ability to send charitable donations via text message. The idea gained widespread attention last year during fundraising drives for victims of the Haiti earthquake.

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For the younger set, e-mail and Facebook may already feel established and traditional, but texting is not yet, "so over." If this regulation allows younger members of the electorate to invest and feel more invested in political campaigns, then all the better. So at the same time that you text your vote to "American Idol" or "Dancing With the Stars," you can also text a donation to your future state legislator.

When the regulation takes effect in a little less than a month, it will be up to wireless carriers and campaigns to implement systems that permit contributions via text message. While there will undoubtedly be some practical and logistical hurdles, on balance, this change seems worth the effort.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government every Monday. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School.

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user sleepyneko. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

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