If you plan to give money to a presidential candidate via a text message, you should know that as much as 50 percent of your donation will go toward text-message fees. In other words, the $50 that you give to President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney can become as little as $25.
In August 2012, Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled that presidential campaigns could accept donations that come from a text message, and both campaigns began to accept text-message donations soon after.
But various fees are charged that are related to such text-message transactions.
Text-message donations are subject to the same commercial rates or fees that wireless telecommunication companies (or carriers) can charge when a consumer purchases a product via a text message, such as a ring tone, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association, which is an organization that represents the wireless telecommunications industry.
In addition, third-party companies that collect campaign donations on behalf of a carrier and pass the money along to the respective campaigns also charge a fee, CTIA spokesperson Amy Storey says.
Although carriers have to disclose that donation fees will apply, it’s unknown exactly how much of that donation might go toward fees.
According to information that FEC provides, a collection aggregator indicated that 30 percent to 50 percent of a donation could go toward fees.
Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless allow customers to send text donations. At press time, AT&T was in the process of negotiating a fee rate with FEC with the intent of allocating a higher percentage of the donation toward a campaign.
Although it’s each campaign’s responsibility to pay for text-message-donation fees, it’s unclear whether text-message-donation fees are deducted immediately or whether a campaign pays the fees from its general campaign fund (which would mean that funds that are raised from other donation methods could be used).
Consumers Digest contacted representatives for Obama and Romney to determine how each campaign pays for text-message-donation fees, but neither campaign responded.
Consumers, who plan to donate via text message, also should be aware that they would be able to contribute only $50 per carrier billing cycle and $200 per campaign cycle, according to CTIA.
– K. Fanuko