Jerry Brown’s Old Fundraising Idea Gets Makeover

In 2012, expect big push for texting contributions to campaigns

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John Hancock

Coming to a cellphone near you in 2012: campaign contributions by text message.

California is the first state in the nation to adopt new rules which allow a phone user to simply text a campaign donation.  It's the same concept as texting a donation to a favored charity or a disaster relief organization. The amount goes into the phone bill, then is passed on to the campaign.

The immediacy and simplicity could be a bonanza for the right candidate or issue.

It reminds me of what was then considered another groundbreaking political maneuver in 1992. That's when Jerry Brown, making his third run for the White House, obtained a toll-free phone number which he used to raise funds.  That 800 number (which Brown still uses, by the way) was attached to all his campaign appearances.  It was considered cutting-edge at the time.  And it  helped Brown not only to raise money, but to create buzz about his use of technology, such as it was.

The new texting rules were approved by California's Fair Political Practices Commission earlier this year. Commission Chair Ann Ravel thinks the move will engage more people in the political process.  And she believes other states will eventually get behind the idea, along with wireless carriers.

"It would be great to have lots of states across the country allow text messaging of political contributions so there will be enough interest and pressure to encourage phone companies to participate," Ravel said in a prepared statement.

But how quickly will campaign professionals get on board?

Republican strategist Rob Stutzman, a former communications director to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, says the change is inevitable.

"I don't think it's a game-changer, but I think it's a natural evolution of using technology appropriately," Stutzman tells Prop Zero. "It makes fundraising more efficient, gets away from mail and the cost associated with that."

Stutzman says larger campaigns will be best positioned to cash in on the technique, but it will have to be marketed.  Expect that text code to show up on campaign literature and ads.

Just like Jerry Brown's old 800 number.

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