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Fundraising By Text Message

DAVID GREENE HOST: If you've ever felt a sudden urge to give money to a politician but you just couldn't get to your checkbook or your computer in time, well, the Federal Election Commission is getting ready to help. The Commission today might approve a proposal to allow contributions via mobile phone. Here's NPR's Peter Overby.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Contributions by text message have done very well for some charities. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the American Red Cross used texting to raise $32 million in donations of $10 each, so this may be the technology that makes impulse giving easy in politics. A big campaign rally with rousing speeches and the energy of the moment, and you've got your cell phone...

BRETT KAPPEL: There's a long tradition in American politics of pass the hat events .

OVERBY: Brett Kappel is a lawyer for the two consultants and the payment process company that asked the FEC to do this.

KAPPEL: Literally pass someone's hat around or more recently a plastic bucket and just ask people to throw in whatever they can afford, you know, a couple of dollars. I mean, that's really all we're doing is taking that and then updating it for the digital era.

OVERBY: The idea's been around for two years. The main hang-up, federal law sets deadlines for processing campaign contributions and it takes longer than that to get mobile contributions through the billing cycle of wireless providers. There's going to be a fix for that. The Obama and Romney campaigns have both endorsed the proposal, not that it will come cheap. The processing fee will likely be 20 to 25 percent of the contribution. So that five dollars you give to your favorite candidate might be only 3.75 or four bucks by the time the campaign gets it. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.

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