FEC says yes to texting, no to Yamaha


At its last meeting of the year Thursday, the Federal Election Commission approved a new way to charge donors who want to give to political committees via text message. But it did not approve a proposed novel way for companies to bulk up their political action committees' receipts — by soliciting independent dealers that sell their products.

The FEC gave the green light to an electronic payment processing company to process payments from political donors via text message. The company, Global Transaction Services Group, would charge the mobile customer's credit card. The FEC approved a slightly different form of charging mobile customers in June; in that case, processing companies were allowed to charge the donor's monthly cell phone bill.

In both methods of charging mobile users, each single donation will be capped at $50. That way political committees can avoid keeping record of the name and address of the donors to the FEC, which is only required for donations over $50. GTSG would also limit annual donations to $50 while the other companies that got approval in June would not.

In a separate opinion, the commission deadlocked 3-3 on a request by the U.S. subsidiary of Yamaha to solicit PAC contributions from the employees of the dealers that sell its water sports products, which Sunlight wrote about two weeks ago. The three Democratic commissioners voted down Yamaha's request while the Republicans voted for it.

Vice Chair Ellen Weintraub, who is taking over as chair in the new year, said she opposed the Yamaha request for two reasons. First, she is concerned with the possibility of campaigns being underwritten by foreign money (it is illegal for campaigns to take foreign money) and wants the FEC address the question of how much control a foreign corporation has over its domestic subsidiary through formal rules. 

Secondly, Weintraub argued that Yamaha's U.S. subsidiary did not have sufficient control over its independent dealers to make them part of the corporation. The three GOP commissioners disagreed, arguing that  there was a strong enough affiliation between Yamaha and its dealers because they must get approval from Yahama before they change their management or location.