Wisconsin Mulls Guidelines for Campaign Contributions in Bitcoin
Authorities in the state of Wisconsin have discussed the adoption of guidelines regarding cryptocurrency contributions to political campaigns, as requested by the Libertarian Party. Other states, like California, have urged politicians not to accept bitcoin donations. Kansas is the only state prohibiting such contributions. The Federal Election Commission allows crypto donations to campaigns for federal office.
Libertarians: The Question Is Not “Whether” but “How”
The Wisconsin Ethics Commission held on Tuesday a public hearing on a request from the state’s Libertarian Party regarding the adoption of guidelines for crypto contributions to political campaigns. The party’s chairman, Phil Anderson, wants to know how such donations would be counted toward the limits set by the state in dollars.
“Digital currencies, such as bitcoin, litecoin and ethereum, are more and more widely accepted as currency and as stores of value,” the libertarian said, quoted by the La Crosse Tribune. “The Chicago Board Options Exchange offers a futures market for bitcoin. Corporations and governments are weighing in on not ‘whether’ to address cryptocurrencies, but ‘how’,” Anderson wrote in the request.
David Buerger, staff counsel for the commission, admitted he is not yet aware of any instances in Wisconsin in which cryptocurrency contributions to state campaigns were given or accepted. Libertarians are among the stronger supporters of bitcoin. The idea of a decentralized cryptocurrency, not controlled by a central authority or bank, is in line with their political views and opposition to government control over the national currency.
During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners suggested that if digital currencies were counted as a monetary contribution, crypto donations would be subject to the $100 limit applicable to cash contributions. Larger donations must be made by a credit card or a bank check.
Only One State Prohibits Crypto Donations
The question of cryptocurrency contributions to political campaigns is one of many crypto-related issues that have been addressed differently in each state. For example, California has issued a warning against such donations. The Fair Political Practices Commission in the Golden State urged campaigns not to accept digital coins because their transactions are considered “virtually impossible to trace”. Last year Kansas became the first state to ban bitcoin contributions. According to its ethics commission, cryptocurrency is “too secretive”.
Most US states have adopted some crypto regulations according to a recently published report by the Brookings Institution. The attitude towards cryptocurrencies, however, varies significantly between different jurisdictions. On national level, crypto contributions to campaigns for federal office were approved by the Federal Election Commission. In 2014 FEC said they should be treated as “in-kind donations” and “noncash items”.
Politicians Taking Bitcoin
The popularity of bitcoin among American politicians seems unaffected by recent market volatility. A growing number of political candidates are accepting cryptocurrencies to fund their campaigns. Republican Andrew Hemingway, the youngest gubernatorial candidate in New Hampshire, was the first to do so in 2014, as reported by CNBC. Hemingway, also a tech entrepreneur, said he decided to accept crypto contributions after many of his supports asked if they could donate bitcoin.
Austin Petersen, Republican candidate from Missouri, received 24 bitcoin contributions while running for Senate. He is also the beneficiary of the largest crypto donation worth $4,500. Democrat Patrick Nelson, running for Congress from New York, is accepting cryptocurrency contributions through the payments provider Bitpay. “We’re a 21st century campaign and as such we embrace new technologies like bitcoin,” he tweeted. Democratic candidate for Congress Brian Forde of California and Republican Kelli Ward running for the Senate from Arizona are also taking bitcoin donations.
The first candidate for the White House to do the same was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul who ran for the Republican nomination at the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Paul has in the past stated that the US government should adopt a “hands off” approach to controlling money. His campaign accepted bitcoin donations worth up to $100. That’s the maximum amount for individual contributions in cryptocurrency, as set by the Federal Election Commission.
What do you think about bitcoin contributions to political campaigns? Share your views in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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