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Politics & Government

Local, State Candidates Leery of Campaign Donations Via Text

The Romney and Obama presidential campaigns are poised to begin accepting donations via text message -- but it may be a while before state and local candidates in the commonwealth can do the same.

Aubrey Montgomery, finance director for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said a state law could be interpreted to prohibit such contributions.

For a campaign to be able to accept texted donations, it needs to have an agreement with the wireless carrier. Montgomery said that could clash with Pennsylvania'’s law, which bans so-called “aggregating third parties.”

"If you have a Sprint contract, whether they would consider Sprint as being a third party, who was collecting all of this money on behalf of political campaigns," said Montgomery.

It'’s one thing to donate money to a charity via text message, but Montgomery says campaign finance rules make it a lot more complicated to make political donations with cell phones.

"A lot of people who have their cell phones through corporate accounts -- you know, that would be a corporate contribution if you used that cell phone to make a text contribution," said Montgomery. "So you’'d want to make sure that they were legally allowed to contribute, that it was in fact their own funds and not, for example, from a corporation, or you know, someone else was paying their cell phone bill."

Montgomery said even if texted donations were approved by the commonwealth, the necessary contracts with wireless carriers may be too costly for most campaigns.

She said for now, campaigns in Pennsylvania have to rely on e-mail fundraising as the best way to collect money at the grass roots level.