Barack Obama's reelection team is set to begin accepting donations by text message in a few days, marking the first time this tool has been used in campaigning since the Federal Election Commission approved it in June. According to Reuters, Obama is finalizing agreements with Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular, with an AT&T deal expected "in the near future." Republican candidate Romney — who also supported the FEC proposal — is likely to announce his own SMS donation system soon.
Candidates hope that letting supporters donate by texting, with the $10 they'll send being processed by carriers and then added to the phone bill, will enable more small donations and turn sending money into a kind of impulse buy. Carriers will take a chunk of the donation money as processing fees, and according to an FEC ruling, they're not responsible for fraudulent or "excessive" donations, a worry that delayed the system by several months. Text message donations are already used by many nonprofits, including Wikipedia, but making them an official part of the political process has required reconciling the ease of sending money with the regulations designed to ensure a fair election.