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Carriers reportedly delay SMS political contribution policy, fearing legal liability

Carriers reportedly delay SMS political contribution policy, fearing legal liability


According to Reuters, cellphone carriers have asked the Federal Election Commission for more information on implementing text message-based political donations, seeking assurance that they will not be held liable for donations that do not conform to campaign finance laws.

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Last month, the US Federal Election Commission voted unanimously to allow political contributions of up to $10 at a time via text message, approving a proposal supported by both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Reuters, however, is reporting that cellphone carriers hope to delay it while they make sure that handling the donations will not leave them open to legal liability. According to industry sources, the major carriers have now sent a letter to the FEC asking for more guidance on how to operate within current campaign finance laws.

Small, anonymous SMS-based donations to nonprofits like Wikipedia are common, and supporters of similar political donations say they provide an easy way for people to contribute small amounts of money. Carriers, however, apparently want to make sure that they will be held responsible for passing on donations from people who are not eligible to give. Non-American citizens, people who have already hit their donation limit, and very young children could all have cellphones but be barred from donating money. Though this system is likely to be approved by carriers eventually, one anonymous executive says that "it's not clear that telecoms are anywhere close to coming to terms of what's going to happen here," making it far from certain it will be ready in time for the 2012 election season.