Candidates at the Republican debate last month. (We added the dollar signs.) (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Political candidates and their staff used to walk around with what were called "remit envelopes" -- printed, pre-addressed envelopes that could be handed out to potential donors and supporters at events, offering an easy way to encourage volunteer sign-ups and, more importantly, financial contributions.

Those were the old days. Now, campaigns can just point people to their Web sites, where visitors can click big red buttons that say "DONATE" and hand over as much* or as little money as they desire. (* Up to the federal limit, of course.)

At least in theory.

On Monday afternoon, I visited the Web sites of each of the 18 main candidates for the presidency -- three Democrats and 15 Republicans -- and tried to give them money. I tried from my laptop and from my phone. Since my goal was to test the donation system and not actually help the campaigns' bottom lines, I limited each donation (laptop and phone) to $1. And at the end of the day, I'd spent $22.

If you are a human calculator, you might have noticed that 22 is less than 18 times two. Correct. To explain why that is, let's walk through the contributions. I gave each candidate a grade that largely reflects 1) how easy it was to hand over money, and 2) how long it took. That is the entire goal of taking online contributions! And some campaigns did this poorly.

The Democrats

Hillary Clinton

Site: hillaryclinton.com
Smallest default donation: $3
Donation appears as: HILLARY FOR AMERIC

When you go to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Web site for the first time, there is a pop-up that appears, white on a blue background, with three things that jump out at you in red: Clinton's logo, a big button that says "join us" and a small red link that says donate. One click, boom, and you're ready to hand over money.

In most cases, the "donate" or "contribute" or "support whoever" button is one of the biggest and most prominent on the page. Even if you don't get the Clinton pop-up, you can spot the shiny red "Donate!" button from a mile away.

I worked through the candidates in the order they're listed below, so it was at Clinton's site that I first saw a mobile feature that worked on every site, save one: Put your credit card in front of your phone and it will read the number automatically.

Clinton_Phone_Scan

In theory, anyway. My worn-out credit card was a bit iffy, but since it was universally slower to type in my contribution information on the phone than on the desktop, this little Apple iOS gimmick was appreciated.

But Clinton doesn't get the credit for this.

One important aspect of the contributions was the receipt of a confirmation e-mail. Most people don't try to give to 18 different campaigns, but it was useful to get an e-mail assuring me that the contribution had gone through. Not all campaigns did this.

And so, the official tally for the Hillary Clinton campaign:

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 78 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 122 seconds
Ease of use: Good
E-mail confirmation: Yes
Overall grade: A

Martin O'Malley

Site: martinomalley.com
Smallest default donation: $5
Donation appears as: OMALLEY FOR PRESID

I gave Martin O'Malley $2, too. The site looked good but wasn't terribly original or interesting. (clears throat)

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 69 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 106 seconds
Ease of use: Good
E-mail confirmation: Yes
Overall grade: A

Bernie Sanders

Site: berniesanders.com
Smallest default donation: $10
Donation appears as: ACTBLUE*BERNIE

Bernie Sanders's contributions are processed through ActBlue, a Democratic nonprofit that facilitates contributions for campaigns. (A number of the campaigns use outside vendors for their donations, as you'll see.) ActBlue allows people who've given in the past to easily give to a new candidate (like, say, Bernie Sanders), but it also means that things get a little ... weird.

Like when you give money to Sanders and then you are asked to give someone a tip?

Sanders_Tip

I understand what is happening here -- that a group is running Sanders's giving. But does an average donor? It was a little jarring.

Especially when, before I received verification that the donation had gone through, I was prompted to create an account on something. And in a great example of terrible user interface design, I was expected to just guess what standards the Web site held for the password I was asked to make.


That is dumb.

But what is smart is this, on the mobile side:

Sanders_Phone_Text

Sign up now to make donations easier! Win for the candidate, win for the person that just spent some too-long period of time trying to type in his information on his phone.

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 97 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 98 seconds
Ease of use: Average
E-mail confirmation: Yes
Overall grade: B

The Republicans

Jeb Bush

Site: jeb2016.com
Smallest default donation: $25
Donation appears as: JEB 2016, INC

I will not comment on the fact that my credit card statement now has two charges for "JEB, INC," which is a little on the nose. But I will point out that on the default donation page for Bush, it is assumed that a lot of visitors will want to credit the bundler that sent them there.


I will also point out that it took me more than four minutes to give to Bush with my phone. First, the credit-card-picture-tool-thing broke the page, making me have to start from scratch.


Then, I didn't enter my card's expiration date, but had already hit the submit button, which made it impossible to use again. So I entered my data (name, address, occupation, etc.) three times in order to give Bush my dollar. So that was nice.

Not that I knew it had gone through. Bush's donations page just forwards you to a "thank you for your donation" page when you're done, and there's no e-mail confirmation. Luckily, Jeb, Inc. showed up on my credit card statement.

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 74 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 269 seconds
Ease of use: Poor
E-mail confirmation: No
Overall grade: D

Ben Carson

Site: bencarson.com
Smallest default donation: $25
Donation appears as: n/a

When I got to Ben Carson, I was on a roll, handing out dollar bills like a bad tipper at bipartisan presidential club. Making it drizzle.

But Carson's site, like several others, uses a donation system called Spark from a company called CMDI. Spark has a bug: You can only give $2 or more.

Which meant I was left having to decide whether to double my contribution to Carson (and others), or to chalk it up as a loss. Ultimately, I decided on the latter. After all, it's not my fault that Carson's Web site can't take my modest contribution -- it's his Web sites's fault!

And so, F.

Update: A representative of CMDI emailed to explain the $2 limit.

We intentionally enforce a $2 minimum, it’s not a bug. We do this because the vast majority of card testing (running stolen credit cards through a test transaction to verify that they work) that’s done online is done in sub-$2 transactions. Enforcing this minimum is a simple, but very effective way to prevent this on our clients donation pages. It’s one of the many ways we protect our clients against credit card fraud activity and costly chargebacks. A single chargeback typically costs a merchant well over $10, so you can understand why this is a good tradeoff considering the very few donors who actually give only $1.

Total contribution: $0
Time to complete, desktop: n/a
Time to complete, phone: n/a
Ease of use: n/a
E-mail confirmation: ?
Overall grade: F

Chris Christie

Site: chrischristie.com
Smallest default donation: $25
Donation appears as: CHRISTIEPRES

I did not have any traffic problems reaching Christie's Web site.

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 65 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 106 seconds
Ease of use: Good
E-mail confirmation: Yes
Overall grade: A

Ted Cruz

Site: tedcruz.org
Smallest default donation: $10
Donation appears as: n/a

First of all, Cruz deserves credit for the mobile version of his site, which has distinct formatting focused on the visitor.

Cruz_Phone

However. Cruz also has a more-than-$1 minimum, telling me on desktop and mobile that I had entered an "invalid donation amount." If it's good enough for Martin O'Malley, Mr. Cruz, it should be good enough for you.

Cruz_Limit

Total contribution: $0
Time to complete, desktop: n/a
Time to complete, phone: n/a
Ease of use: n/a
E-mail confirmation: ?
Overall grade: F

Carly Fiorina

Site: carlyforpresident.com
Smallest default donation: $25
Donation appears as: n/a

Fiorina uses Spark. Also, when I visited her Web site from my phone, this is what it looked like.

Carly_Phone_Blank

Total contribution: $0
Time to complete, desktop: n/a
Time to complete, phone: n/a
Ease of use: n/a
Email confirmation: ?
Overall grade: F

Jim Gilmore

Site: gilmoreforamerica.com
Smallest default donation: $n/a
Donation appears as: n/a

Gilmore's donation tool never loaded on my desktop or phone.


A colleague tried to access it from a Windows-based machine (I have a Mac), and it worked. So maybe Gilmore is simply drawing a line in the sand, hoping to gather up contributions from Redmond.

Or maybe I was the first person using a Mac to try and give money to Jim Gilmore.

Total contribution: $0
Time to complete, desktop: n/a
Time to complete, phone: n/a
Ease of use: n/a
E-mail confirmation: ?
Overall grade: F

Lindsey Graham

Site: lindseygraham.com
Smallest default donation: $10
Donation appears as: Edonation

Graham's site was one of the easiest to use. Less than a minute from pasting in the URL to a completed transaction, and an e-mail shortly afterward. How it should be.

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 57 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 89 seconds
Ease of use: Good
E-mail confirmation: Yes
Overall grade: A

Mike Huckabee

Site: mikehuckabee.com
Smallest default donation: $6
Donation appears as: n/a

By the time I got to Huckabee, I'd gotten pretty good at working my way through an online contribution on my phone. Enter amount, enter name, enter address, etc. Slow, but once you've got the hang of it, off you go.

So I got to the "submit" button on the mobile site, and then got the same alert I'd gotten when I tried to give on the Web site: You have to give $5 or more.

Why? Why do I have to give $5, Mike Huckabee? What is wrong with $4? What if I am a giant Huckabee fan, and want to give $4 because it is my lucky number? Huckabee's donation page has a relatively random $6 recommended donation button. What does $6 have that $4 doesn't?

Total contribution: $0
Time to complete, desktop: n/a
Time to complete, phone: n/a
Ease of use: n/a
E-mail confirmation: ?
Overall grade: F

Bobby Jindal

Site: bobbyjindal.com
Smallest default donation: $5
Donation appears as: JINDAL FOR PRES

Bobby Jindal's donation system is great, on desktop and on mobile. Fast, with lots of little cues to guide you through the process. It doesn't make you enter your city and state because it can figure that out from your ZIP code. Little things like that make the process much easier, particularly when you've been giving away dollars for an hour. Graham's site was good, but there was a badly formatted video that popped up. Jindal's was smooth as silk, with an e-mail confirmation at the end.

The Greek tragedy of it all: The system Jindal uses, Anedot, is the same system that Jim Gilmore uses for his Web site, if only his Web site could have actually loaded for me. Two dollars that Jim Gilmore definitely could have used, gone in a blink.

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 56 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 102 seconds
Ease of use: Good
E-mail confirmation: Yes
Overall grade: A+

John Kasich

Site: johnkasich.com
Smallest default donation: $25
Donation appears as: n/a

Spark.

Total contribution: $0
Time to complete, desktop: n/a
Time to complete, phone: n/a
Ease of use: n/a
E-mail confirmation: ?
Overall grade: F

George Pataki

Site: georgepataki.com
Smallest default donation: $25
Donation appears as: n/a

Spark.

Total contribution: $0
Time to complete, desktop: n/a
Time to complete, phone: n/a
Ease of use: n/a
E-mail confirmation: ?
Overall grade: F

Rand Paul

Site: randpaul.com
Smallest default donation: $20.16 (get it??)
Donation appears as: RANDPAUL.COM

Rand Paul accepts Bitcoin, of course.

Paul_Bitcoin

Don't know what Bitcoin is? Head to a Rush concert and look for a dude in a fedora. He can tell you.

(True story: Wondering if there was a better band to use in that joke than Rush, I Googled "libertarian favorite band." This was the second result:)


Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 95 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 102 seconds
Ease of use: Average
E-mail confirmation: Yes
Overall grade: B

Marco Rubio

Site: marcorubio.com
Smallest default donation: $7
Donation appears as: MARCORUBIOFORPRESI

By giving one dollar to Marco Rubio, I enlisted in an army.

Rubio_Army

It was at this point that my bank finally started to wise up.


Is this the big banks weighing in against Marco Rubio, the person most threatening to the establishment pick, Jeb Bush? Or was my bank simply suggesting that maybe I should not give money to more politicians? Either way, the check was appreciated.

Rubio's process was fine, but sloooow. No e-mail confirmation, just like Bush. And why $7 as the smallest default contribution? Did he see Huckabee's $6 and Spinal Tap it?

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 92 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 114 seconds
Ease of use: Good
E-mail confirmation: No
Overall grade: C

Rick Santorum

Site: ricksantorum.com
Smallest default donation: $25
Donation appears as: SANTORUM FOR PRESI

Rick Santorum is very worried about people violating campaign finance law. He makes people select their country of origin, and you have to click a checkbox saying, in essence, that you're not a Russian oligarch seeking to shift American foreign policy by lavishing Rick Santorum with $1 contributions.

But Santorum does have a smart feature that others don't: Once you give, you're encouraged to tweet or Facebook your contribution.


In the past 30 days, 89 people have tweeted that.

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 132 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 124 seconds
Ease of use: Good
E-mail confirmation: No
Overall grade: C

Donald Trump

Site: donaldjtrump.com
Smallest default donation: $10
Donation appears as: *TRUMP*

Of course Trump's contributions show up on your credit card with stars on either side of them. STAR Trump STAR thank you for your donation.

Total contribution: $2
Time to complete, desktop: 60 seconds
Time to complete, phone: 106 seconds
Ease of use: Good
Email confirmation: Yes
Overall grade: A

So, in summary, I gave Donald Trump -- a man who says he is worth $10 billion -- two dollars, for work. The end.