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FEC Record: Advisory Opinions

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AO 2012-35 – Wireless Group May Forward Text Contributions

An e-commerce transaction company may receive small-dollar contributions initiated via text message and paid for by credit or debit card, deduct its fee and forward the net amount to its political committee customers.

Background

Global Transaction Services Group, Inc. (“GTSG”) is an incorporated technology company that processes mobile payments to wireless customers. GTSG would like to enable wireless users to make contributions of $50 or less to political committees initiated via text messages. Contributors would be asked to verify their legal eligibility and intention to contribute, then the company would charge the donor’s credit or debit card, deduct its fee and forward the net amount to the recipient committee. The company will not allow a donor to contribute more than $50 to any committee during a calendar year.

Analysis

GTSG’s request raises three issues under the Act and Commission regulations relating to the receipt and forwarding of contributions for political committees: (1) whether the contributions received for political committees are timely forwarded; (2) whether contributor information must be forwarded for contributions of $50 or less; and (3) whether the requestor will properly account for political contributions deposited by GTSG before they are forwarded to recipient political committees.

Under the Act and Commission regulations, persons receiving credit or debit card contributions on behalf of a campaign committee must forward the funds to the committee within 10 days of the cardholder authorizing the charge. 2 U.S.C. §432(b)(1); 11 CFR 102.8(a).  Contributions to other committees must be forwarded within 10 days if the amount is greater than $50 or within 30 days if the contribution is $50 or less. 2 U.S.C.§432(b)(2)(A); 11 CFR 102.8(b)(1); see also AO 2012-17 (Red Blue T LLC, ArmourMedia, Inc. and m-Qube, Inc.) (citing AO 1990-04 (American Veterinary Medical Association and AVMA Political Action Committee). If a donor gives more than $50, the recipient committee must receive and record the name, address, date and amount of the contribution. 2 U.S.C. §432(b)(1) and (2)(B); 11 CFR 102.8(a) and (b)(2). Additionally, corporate intermediaries—like GTSG—must charge for their services and must account for the contributed funds separately to ensure they avoid making a prohibited corporate contribution. See 2 U.S.C. §44lb; 11 CFR 114.2(b); AOs 2012-30 (Revolution Messaging, LLC) and 1999-22 (Aristotle Publishing, Inc.).

GTSG’s proposal complies with all of these requirements. The company will forward all contributions to its political committee customers within seven days, within the established timelines. Additionally, GTSG proposes to forward to the recipient political committees, among other information, the wireless user’s ten-digit phone number, name, address, and last four digits of his or her credit or debit card. This proposal satisfies the Act and Commission regulations.  Finally, GTSG will track contributions using the short code and unique keyword associated with each recipient committee and will deposit contributions into separate bank accounts. These measures avoid the possibility of a prohibited corporate contribution. 

Date Issued: December 20, 2012; 6 pages

(Posted 1/3/13; By: Alex Knott)

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The FEC Record is produced by the Information Division, Office of Communications. Toll free 800-424-9530; Local 202-694-1100; E-mail info@fec.gov. Greg Scott, Director; Alex Knott, Senior Writer/Editor; Dorothy Yeager, Production Manager