Vote of Confidence
Wedd acknowledges the difference but says there is no choice working with political candidates.
"With political contributions, we have to charge our customers in the political realm basic commercial rates due to the campaign finance laws," he says. "If we charged less, it would be treated as contributions-in-kind."
The actual percentage each carrier receives for processing text donations is confidential, Wedd says.
Hasen says there is growing speculation that the real reason the presidential candidates are offering the ability to donate via text is to get supporters to opt in for targeted text messaging to help get out the vote.
"As far as campaigns just using text donations to get people to opt in to message, I don't think it's a necessarily smart strategy," Hasen says. "It's a lower barrier of entry just to ask them to opt in to get campaign information than to ask for a donation."
Still, Obama and Romney might be able to attract more young people to both contribute and help get others to vote by enabling them to donate via text, Hasen says. But he questions how many people will actually do that for a political campaign versus an emergency relief fund for a catastrophe like the Haiti earthquake.
"It is an entirely different motivation," he says. "Watching the Haiti earthquake coverage on TV, if I had a heart, I couldn't possibly say no to that. There's also an immediacy to that that can't be matched by asking to donate to a political campaign four months before an election. When it comes to how to tap in to the passions and interests of mobile subscribers, to me the jury is still very much out."
Jim Buttino, president of Systems East in Courtland, N.Y., is currently trying to entice Romney and supportive Republican state and national committees to use his firm's Xpress-pay.com to enable supporters to donate by scanning QR codes on ads. In fact, Systems East has placed a mock Romney campaign TV ad on YouTube that displays a QR code at the bottom of the screen to demonstrate how easy it could be, Buttino says.