The proposal is consistent with existing law, he said, which already says that candidates can collect contributions of $50 or less without reporting them. "That's been the rule since 1974," he said. Moreover, he added, the wireless provider can insure the donor does not exceed a proscribed amount, and that the donation is made on a domestic cell phone, not one from overseas.
Brett Kappel, another campaign finance lawyer, said he believes it will be extremely difficult for the FEC to square this request current disclosure provisions.
"Campaign committees have a duty to collect information from all contributors and aggregate it so that if one donor gives three contributions that total more than $200 they can be itemized," Kappel said. "The way this technology works campaigns wouldn't know if multiple anonymous contributions came from one person or twenty different people."
Scott Thomas, a former FEC chairman, said he believes those concerns can be alleviated. For instance, he said, phone companies could be required to decline transactions for any cell phone where the $50 limit on anonymous contributions has been reached.
"Conceivably, the FEC could require the phone companies also to provide to benefitting campaigns electronic records showing which phone numbers and corresponding account names are associated with any batch of funds forwarded," he said.
Both parties see the potential for text messaging to provide a lucrative new avenue for candidates to raise money.
The veteran Republican election lawyer said he believes there is "an enormous upside to it," because it makes it easier for people to get engaged. "This is a medium people communicate in now," he said.
The FEC has 60 days to make a decision.