Beltway Confidential

Are Bitcoins the next campaign donation?

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Beltway Confidential,PACs,Campaign Finance,Ashe Schow,Bitcoin,Currency

A conservative political action committee is asking whether it can accept Bitcoins as contributions and then use those Bitcoins on campaign activities.

Conservative Action Fund PAC sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission in August requesting an advisory opinion about the use of Bitcoins as campaign currency.

“As increasing numbers of individuals trade in Bitcoin, political parties and candidates also wish to accept and spend this new currency,” the group said.

Bitcoins are a purely electronic form of currency, transferred online between individuals. Anyone in the world can sign up to purchase and use Bitcoins, and they can be spent on a whole host of products such as clothing and electronics.

Because the value of Bitcoins depends upon those accepting them as currency, the market can be volatile. And because there are multiple Bitcoin exchanges, the price can vary greatly between exchanges.

CAF pointed out in its letter that the Libertarian Party and some candidates are already accepting Bitcoins as donations — and are “complying with all relevant campaign finance regulations.”

The issue, according to CAF, comes down to the definitions of “contribution,” and “money.” Contribution is currently defined in the Federal Election Campaign Act as “any gift … deposit of money or anything of value made for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office.”

Money is currently defined as “currency of the United States or of any foreign nation, checks, money orders or any other negotiable instruments payable on demand.” This includes in-kind contributions such as stocks and bonds.

CAF intends to accept Bitcoins as both monetary contributions and in-kind contrubtions, and either exchange them for U.S. dollars or retain them to purchase goods and services. They could even sell them at a later date.

CAF asked the FEC whether such activities would comply with relevant regulations and sough “specific guidance on valuing, retaiing, selling, spending and contributing Bitcoins received as contributions.”

If CAF is able to accept and spend Bitcoins for campaign activities, it could open the door for other PACs to do the same. Further, it could bring attention to the currency as a political tool and may encourage more candidates and organizations to accept Bitcoins as well.

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