Politico reports that the FEC has denied a request from a wireless industry lobbying group to allow people to make small donations to candidates and parties via text messaging. Apparently, the FEC thought that donations in this manner might allow contributors to exceed the $50 limit on anonymous contributions and would violate the rules that determine how quickly contributions must be forwarded to a campaign’s treasurer.
One can certainly criticize the FEC for its conservative, rule-based approach to an innovative way for people to support candidates and parties. (Indeed, as the Court stated in Citizens United, “The FEC’s ‘business is to censor.’”) But the fact is, all regulatory agencies behave this way. Their mandate, after all, is not to make it easy for people to engage in regulated behavior, but to make sure that people follow all their complex rules and regulations. If that means delaying or forgoing entirely the use of new technologies that facilitate political participation, well, tough.
The FEC may, in its own sweet time, come around to recognizing the value of allowing people to contribute money to political campaigns using all sorts of new technologies. In the meantime, we might consider anew why we ever decided to empower a federal agency to make these decisions for us.