American cellular networks are unhappy with a Federal Election Commission decision to permit political donations by text message, despite the fact that such a facility could change politics entirely.
The decision was made by unanimous vote of the FEC last month, and will allow political parties and candidates to accept up to $50 a month, to a total of $200, from anonymous phone numbers. The move could broaden fundraising for increasingly expensive US elections, but Reuters tells us the cellular companies have asked the FEC for assurances they won't be held liable when it all goes horribly wrong.
Political donations in the US have to be reported if they exceed $200, but network operators are worried they'll end up being responsible for policing that cap - for ensuring that donors aren't just buying a dozen pay-as-you-go SIMs and dropping $200 on each of them to avoid making their donation public.
Not only that, but operators taking a cut of the messaging fee stand accused of political profiteering, while those who don't (by waving the fee as the operators do for some charities) are guilty of contributing to political parties that might be supported by their customers but perhaps not so popular among their shareholders.
So the network operators have, via the CTIA, asked the FEC to clarify exactly who would be responsible for what if the donation-by-text became a reality.
The idea of text donations is to open campaign coffers to the ordinary American who might be convinced to throw a couple of dollars into the (virtual) bucket, but wouldn't want to fill out a credit card form or set up a regular payment.
Proponents reckon it'll lead to greater democracy, as politicians are always answerable to those who fund them it makes sense for that funding to come from as broader base as possible, assuming the legal issues can be resolved, but fitting that within the existing legislation could prove a challenge too far. ®