Frictionless, quick, easy -- getting donors to give using their phones could be a boon for the presidential campaigns.
About a decade ago, the Internet revolutionized political fundraising. Could text messages be poised to repeat the feat?
The Federal Election Commission's decision last week to allow fundraising solicitations via text message is a critical money-raising permutation for candidate scrambling for cash. And the newly legal pitch opens a new front in the battle between Mitt Romney and President Obama.
Which candidate best succeeds at incorporating the new fundraising tool will gain a possibly critical edge in a neck-and-neck presidential contest where every dollar raised and supporter mobilized is potentially crucial. Text-message solicitations have the potential to not only tap into a deep pool of small donors, political consultant from both parties say, but also cultivate a community of supporters who otherwise wouldn't be involved in the race.
"It's a sea change in campaign finance; at least it could be," said Mark Armour, a Democratic strategist whose political-consulting firm proposed the change to the FEC. "The challenge is to operationalize it."
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Raising money with text messages isn't a new phenomenon outside of politics: After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, donors contributed tens of millions of dollars using the phone service. Everyday consumers use the technology to buy services on their smartphones: It amounts to about $2 billion in transactions annually, according to Alan Sege, vice president of m-Qube, a company that serves as a messaging and billing gateway for phone carriers.