Campaign Contributions Could Be Made Via Text Message Under Proposed Bill

By Jill Colvin on February 2, 2012 8:27am 

City Councilwoman Gale Brewer wants supporters to be able to make political donations by text.
City Councilwoman Gale Brewer wants supporters to be able to make political donations by text.
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Flickr/Felixion

CITY HALL — New legislation proposed Wednesday would allow supporters to make political contributions via text message.

Upper West Side City Councilwoman Gale Brewer’s text message bill would allow residents, using their cell phones, to make contributions of up to $100 to candidates for citywide office.

The donations would appear on callers’ regular phone bills and, like the rest of their charges, be paid through wireless providers.

Brewer, who is considering running for Manhattan borough president in 2013, said the idea is part of a larger effort to boost political involvement by making it easier for people to participate.

"In the wake of the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate expenditures in elections, New York City needs to explore new ways to involve average citizens in electoral politics,” she said.

Eric Friedman, a spokesman for the city Campaign Finance Board, said text contributions would likely be permissible if the legislation were to pass. Small donations, he added, are "exactly" the kind the board already hopes to encourage through efforts like public matching funds.

"That said, there are technological challenges and questions that I think need to be answered before you can administer something like this," he said.

California became the first state last year to allow text-based contributions, following the success of text-based fundraising after the earthquake in Haiti.

Meanwhile, City Councilman James Vacca, chairman of the Transportation Committee, introduced legislation Wednesday that would prevent drivers from being ticketed for using the leftover time on their muni-meter receipts to park at other locations.

The Department of Transportation isn’t opposed to the practice. Vacca, however, said some of his constituents have complained about traffic enforcement agents ticketing motorists who have used a receipt with time remaining to park elsewhere.  

DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said the city is already beginning to address Vacca’s concern.

Proposed legislation would block drivers from being ticketed for using their muni-meter receipts in multiple locations.
Proposed legislation would block drivers from being ticketed for using their muni-meter receipts in multiple locations.
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Gabriela Resto-Montero/DNAinfo

"We are in the process of updating the rules to make clearer that muni-meter receipts may be used at additional locations, provided those areas have the same parking rates and regulations," he said.

The city raises approximately $600 million a year through parking fines, Vacca's office said.

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