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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2012-26: Campaigns responsible for compliance of text contributions

August 31, 2012

Campaigns that receive texted contributions are solely responsible for determining the eligibility of contributors, and must satisfy their responsibilities under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) by employing the proposed safeguards.


Rep. Jim Cooper’s campaign, and the connection aggregator m-Qube plan to engage in a commercial transaction aimed at raising campaign contributions by text message.

Under the plan, which is similar to one approved in AO 2012-17, a contributor texts a predetermined word or phrase to a code number assigned to the recipient committee. Shortly after, the provider would ask the individual to certify their eligibility to make contributions and confirm the contribution amount. Once the confirmation and certification are received, a charge in the amount of the contribution would appear on the individual’s cellular phone bill.

Under the requestors’ proposal, participating committees have to be registered and “in good standing” with the Commission and contributions to a committee from a single mobile phone number cannot exceed $50 per month.

The requesters seek confirmation that – as between m-Qube, the wireless service providers, and the Committee – the Committee is responsible for compliance with the Act and Commission regulations, and that any discounts wireless vendors offer would not result in in-kind contributions so long as they act in accordance with normal business practices.


Cooper for Congress is solely responsible for determining the eligibility of its contributors, and the Committee will satisfy its responsibilities under the Act by employing its proposed safeguards.

A treasurer of a political committee “must keep an account of (1) all contributions received by or on behalf of such political committee; (2) the name and address of any person who makes any contribution in excess of $50, together with the date and amount of such contribution by any person; [and] (3) the identification of any person who makes a contribution or contributions aggregating more than $200 during a calendar year, together with the date and amount of any such contribution.”  See 2 U.S.C. § 432(c)(1)-(3); see also 11 CFR 110.4(c).

Commission regulations also state that “[t]he treasurer shall be responsible for examining all contributions received for evidence of illegality and for ascertaining whether contributions received, when aggregated with other contributions from the same contributor, exceed the [Act’s] contribution limitations.” See 11 CFR 103.3(b).

Under the proposal, the Committee will be able to satisfy its requirements under the Act and Commission regulations. 

Persons who receive and forward contributions to political committees must forward the contributions within certain time frames—10 days for contributions to authorized committees and for contributions in excess of $50 to unauthorized committees, and 30 days for other contributions to unauthorized committees.  For contributions in excess of $50 they must also forward the contributors’ names, addresses and other identifying information. 2 U.S.C. § 432(b); 11 CFR 102.8(a) and (b). None of the contributions under the proposal here will exceed $50. 

Generally, discounts to political committees that are also “available to others on equal terms or as part of a pre-existing business relationship” are not considered in-kind contributions. Under the circumstances presented, m-Qube may pass on to its political committee customers the discounts that it negotiates with wireless service providers.   

Date issued: August 14, 2012; Length: 11 pages.


  • Author 
    • Alex Knott