Campaigns are about to become more text savvy after the Federal Election Commission (FEC) voted yesterday evening to allow federal candidates to accept political donations through text messaging.
With 2012 poised to be the most expensive election ever — each side is prepared to shell out $1 billion — this new window for soliciting money should help the Obama and Romney campaigns reach out to a critical voting bloc: young people glued to their cell phones.
The Washington Post writes that two political consulting firms, ArmourMedia and Red Blue T, came up with the idea, in which each text will be a pledge and then a third-party aggregator will collect the money. Because cell phone plans are billed on a monthly basis, it could take up to 60 days for campaigns to receive the donation.
It’s not the first time groups have used text messaging to raise money: a text campaign following the Haiti Earthquake helped raise $32 million in aid for that disaster, and others have drummed up money for victims of the Japan Tsunami. In those cases, donors are asked via ads or in text messages sent to their phones to send a text of their own to a specific number — for example, “text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to earthquake relief”.
Mark Armour, ArmourMedia president and former press secretary to Al Gore, called the FEC’s decision an “antidote to the super PACs” that will empower grassroots operations, per the Post:
‘Just when corporate billionaires were about to hijack the 2012 elections, the FEC gave millions of Americans the power to match them through small donations on their cellphones,’ Armour said.
In fact, Politico recently reported that the Obama campaign’s sophisticated digital operation has found that $3 is the magic number:
Asking supporters for that paltry donation to win a chance to attend a fundraiser with the president and George Clooney or Sarah Jessica Parker, has generated tens of thousands of responses — people from whom the campaign can collect highly valuable data and then go back to.
With the new ruling opening the floodgates, each party will likely work hard to expand its digital and mobile presence to learn more about voters — and get more out of them, too.