PAC wants state approval for text donations

A Houston-based PAC is asking the Texas Ethics Commission to approve a proposal that would allow the committee to solicit text message contributions from donors in the state.

The Federal Election Commission has approved a text-to-donate model for federal campaigns, but demand for the service is already spreading down the ballot. The PAC—Harris County Republicans—wants the ethics commission to move quickly so donation functionality can be added to a voter mobilization app developed by its founder Robert Flanagan. 

“When a campaign buys the app from the company, it’s customized for their jurisdiction,” says Jerad Najvar, the PAC’s attorney. “They put it in the app store, and the volunteers for that person’s campaign can then download.”

The app syncs with the state’s voter registration database so that, once a volunteer downloads the app, an algorithm runs contacts against the voter file and identifies those who are registered in the jurisdiction. From there, the volunteer can call or email highlighted contacts with one touch. Soon Flanagan hopes users will be forwarding the keyword “donate” to their friends with the touch of a button.

“Right now we’re not storing anybody’s data,” Flanagan says. “But long term that is something that we at least want to look at to make matching easier.”

Next cycle, Flanagan wants to add a mechanism for opting into a campaign’s contact list, and while his tech company currently has just a handful of local clients, Flanagan says he’s not against marketing the app across the aisle.

Najvar thinks the company’s text donation model is readily passable under Texas law, but he’s not sure about the timetable for approval from the state’s Ethics Commission, noting “the TEC is not as efficient as the FEC.”

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