World Bulletin / News Desk
In a U.S. election dominated by multimillion-dollar donations, Democratic President Barack Obama's campaign is about to give small donors a new weapon by starting to accept text message donations for the first time in history.
Marking the beginning of what could be a revolution in U.S. campaign finance, the Obama campaign said on Thursday it is wrapping up agreements with Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp, U.S. Cellular and T-Mobile USA - a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG - to open the floodgate for donations by text this week.
In the coming days, voters are likely to start seeing a message on video screens at Obama rallies, at the end of ads or on fliers, encouraging them "to contribute $10 to Obama for America, text GIVE to 62262." The numbers spells out "OBAMA."
The campaign of Republican Mitt Romney, Obama's rival in the Nov. 6 election, w ill soon start accepting donations as well, a campaign official said on Thursday. Its number is expected to be 466 488 (" GOMITT"), already used to contact supporters by text.
The Obama campaign said agreements with other phone companies - including AT&T Inc, the second-largest after Verizon - were anticipated "in the near future."
Thanks to their small size and spontaneity, text donations could empower smaller donors in a campaign marked by six-figure donations to outside groups to fund what is likely to be the most expensive U.S. election in history.
Text donations, as they are currently approved, can be made anonymously but have to be capped at $10 per text, $50 per month and $200 in total for one candidate or campaign. Donations are prohibited from foreigners, people under 18 or corporations, which could also mean corporate phone accounts.
The United States has more than 330 million wireless service subscribers. Almost nine in 10 U.S. adults have at least one cell phone line and about three-quarters of those use text messaging, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.
THE FEE QUESTION
The process of political giving via text would be similar to giving to charity: A donor would send a short message to a text code, confirm intention and eligibility, and later pay for the donation as part of the monthly cell phone bill.
But in this case, carriers and aggregators processing the payment would take a significant cut from each transaction, as they do with other non-charitable transactions, such as purchases of ring tones.
Typically, these fees can take 30 percent to 50 percent of the money sent over text, industry experts told the Federal Election Commission earlier this year.
The FEC has since ruled that carriers could offer discounts to political campaigns if they are negotiated by an aggregator firm, sort of middlemen between the two, in its regular course of business and applies to all its political customers equally.
It remains unclear what percentage exactly the Obama campaign will be paying in fees.
"Every avenue of fundraising that we have costs us money," said an Obama campaign official. "We pay the most competitive rates available in the marketplace to ensure our supporters have the greatest impact with their contribution."
Text donations had originally been expected to launch in early June, when federal regulators first approved the program. But the wireless carriers, whose support is key to facilitate the process, had caused a delay as they sought legal protections over fraud and profitability.
The FEC ruled on Aug. 15 that political campaigns are "solely responsible" for ensuring donations are not fraudulent or excessive, and that carriers could refuse text-donation services to campaigns not deemed commercially viable.
On the day of the vote, fundraisers and campaign finance experts quickly pointed to the Obama campaign -- which had reached out to almost all of the FEC commissioners to urge their approval of text donations -- as the likely pioneer of the plan.
"President Obama's reputation is that he's reaching out to the grassroots... He's more of a natural person to be an early adapter," veteran Republican digital fundraiser Peter Pasi said at the time, in anticipation of the launch of the program.
A Pew Research study late last year also found that of all U.S. adults using cell phones to text, African-American and Latino phone users are the most active texters, and these groups are generally seen as Democratic voting blocs friendly to Obama.
The Obama campaign, whose small-donor prowess helped it set fundraising records and win the 2008 election, has been raising a notably larger portion of cash from small checks than Romney.
"As we push through the last 100 days of this election," the Obama campaign said on Thursday, "we remain focused on making this campaign as accessible as possible to the small-dollar donors that are the heart and soul of our organization."
The Balkan country is considering adding 130 km (80 miles) of barbed-wire fencing to an existing 33-km fence along the 240-km southeastern border
The Jordanian national, Bashar Abu Zeid, a communications engineer, smiled soon after the judge read out the ruling.
A ceasefire signed by the warring Seleka and anti-Balaka militias has failed to end violence.
Iraq's escalating crisis means that the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq is now hosting more than 600,000 internally displaced civilians
Protesters have been calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign.
The armed wing of Hamas, engaged in a six-week war with Israel, said on its website it had fired two rockets at Noa, a gas well owned by Nobel Energy and Delek.
Questioning began at 9pm after guests were informed via loudspeaker that Kadyrov had lost his phone and lasted till the morning.
Tsewang Gonpo, 60; Yeshe, 42; and Jinpa Tharchin, 18 died in detention in Ganzi after being denied medical treatment for their injuries, the U.K.-based Free Tibet group said
The 42-year-old, known as the Iron Lady of Manipur, began her fast in November 2000 after 10 people were killed in a shooting at a bus stop near her home in Manipur
Israeli aircraft have carried out 80 strikes in the Gaza Strip, killing 19 people including children
Military equipment such as helmets and security vests would be sent immediately, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said
Ten people were missing after a month's worth of rain fell overnight, loosening slopes already saturated by heavy rain over the past few weeks.
Matthew Rosenberg ran a story about ministry and palace officials discussing plans to form an interim government if an election deadlock continues
Interior Ministry said nine pro-Ukrainian volunteer fighters, supporting Kiev's forces, were killed in the fighting in Ilovaisk, which lies part way along the road from Donetsk
Four of the homes that were demolished by Israeli occupation forces were built 100 years ago.
Crowd were angry because they ordered to leave a neighbourhood placed under quarantine because of the Ebola virus.