Now, visitors to Amazon can use a feature to contribute up to $200 to their favorite U.S. presidential candidate.
The megaretailer quietly launched the service late Thursday night to--in the company's own words--take "the friction out of grassroots contributions to presidential candidates."
"We realized that presidential campaigns were starting to heat up, and we were reaching the primary season, and we have 37 million active accounts," Chris Bruzzo, an Amazon spokesman, said Friday. "We allow them to purchase and support all kinds of things already today. We realized that this was just a natural extension of what we were already doing."
Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents may contribute. Not all the candidates have signed up for an Amazon account to receive payments. President Bush and Sen. Joe Lieberman's campaigns have been contacted but have not yet replied, Amazon said.
Of the Democrats who have signed up, the winner of this week's Iowa caucuses, Sen. John Kerry, leads in Amazon-facilitated donations. As of Friday afternoon, Kerry had raised $1,259 in 38 individual contributions; with Wesley Clark in second with $840 and 45 contributions; Howard Dean in third with $730 and 47 contributions; and John Edwards with $565 through 24 contributions.
Rev. Al Sharpton, whose support in New Hampshire is a scant one-tenth of 1 percent, according to Friday's Zogby International tracking poll, had raised a mere $20. Libertarian Gary Nolan, a syndicated talk show host, raised $1,205 in 46 contributions. No Green Party candidates are listed.
Amazon said it will disclose information about contributors to the Federal Elections Commission, which will eventually publish donors' names and addresses.
But would-be donors looking for the best bang for their buck might want to donate directly to their candidate of choice. Amazon charges the campaigns a fee of about 5 percent for its service.