All You Need to Know About Political Campaign Text Message Donations

Rules for Political Campaign Text Messaging

With the recent announcement from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that the proposal to use text messaging to raise funds for political campaigns has been approved, the internet has been buzzing with questions about what this means for campaign managers. Our buddy Derek Johnson over at Tatango has outlined all of the rules for political campaign text message donations below, which we wanted to share with you.

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1) There are two types of political text message donation methods that the FEC approved.
  • The first method would require a person to send an SMS keyword, to a premium SMS short code, registered to the political campaign. (i.e Text DONATE to 68398) Then that person would receive a text message response asking them to confirm their intent to engage in the transaction, and to certify that the’re eligible to make a contribution under the Act and Commission regulations.
  • The second method would require a person to enter their mobile phone number on a political campaign’s website in lieu of a credit card number. Before submitting the mobile phone number, they would be required to certify their eligibility to make a contribution underthe Act and Commission regulations. After that person confirmed their eligibilty, and submits their mobile phone number, a text message is sent to that mobile phone with a PIN (a short string of letters/numbers). That person would then enter that PIN back into the political campaign’s website to confirm the transaction.
2) Political campaigns can only provision SMS short codes for use here in the United States. This was done to prevent foreigners from sending in text message donations, which is a violate of campaign regulations.


3) A contract between an SMS provider and a political candidate or committee, must include special provisions that require compliance with the requirements set by the FEC.


4) Eachpolitical candidate or committee must be registered “and in good standing” with the FEC and relevant State authorities to be able to collect donations via text message.


5) Each political candidate or committee must receive donations through a single SMS short code per election. This means candidates can’t switch short codes mid-election or operate multiple SMS short codes.


6) No mobile phone number may donate more than $50 per month to any one political  candidate or committee. Since each political candidate or committee is limited to one short code, this will be as simple as imposing spending limits on each short code.


7) Each text message confirmation must include a hyperlink, that when opened by a person on their smartphone, will send them to a mobile webpage that includes the unabbreviated attestation. The mobile webpage would also explain terms such as “foreign national” and “Federal contractor.”


8 ) Text message donations must be sent to the campaign’s treasurer within ten days of receipt. Because wireless carriers take up to 60 days to remit text message donations, a process called “factoring”, must be used. Typical factors will range between 50% and 90$ of the total “out payment”, which represents the total donation amount that is left after all fees have been deducted by the wireless service providers and SMS providers. A typical out payment will range between 50% and 70% of the donation.


9) If a political candidate or committee receives factored payments that exceed the amount of outpayments due to it, they may not terminate the service or transfer services, programs, or short codes from the SMS provider until it has repaid. The SMS provider may require that the political candidate or committee refund to the SMS provider any overpayment that results from a higher than expected number of subscribers refusing to pay text message charges on their bills. Similarly, an SMS provider is charged an adjustment by a “Network Operator” that exceeds the total amount owed by the SMS provider to its customer, the SMS provider may require the customer to repay the factored payment.


10) The SMS provider must remit factored payments to political candidates or committees on a weekly basis.


11) The SMS provider will be prohibited from sending the political candidate or committee any identifiable information associated with that mobile phone number. This means no names, addresses, etc.


12) The SMS provider will will provide the following information to the political candidate or committee regarding each individual mobile phone number:
  • The donation amount.
  • The date of the donation.
  • Confirmation that the donor agreed to have the contribution charged to their wireless bill.
  • Confirmation that the donor agreed to questions indicating their eligibility to contribute.
13) The SMS provider must be able to keep a running, real-time tally of the dollar amount of donations made via text message from a particular telephone number.


14) The SMS provider must allow real-time secure access to the SMS platform, where the tally of donations will be maintained.


15) The SMS provider must allow the ability for political candidates and committees customers to block text message donations from phone numbers associated with pre-paid carriers and any other phone number at any time for any reason.


As you can see, there are a lot of rules & regulations that a campaign manager has to think about before starting their own text-to-donate campaign. I encourage you to reach out to Derek if you have questions!

About the Author: Samantha DeVita

Samantha DeVita
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