- Cryptocurrency accounts for a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars flowing into federal elections.
- But candidates and political committees are increasingly interested in accepting bitcoin and altcoins.
- Advocates offer several reasons for going politi-crypto: convenience, inclusion, privacy.
Are you a political candidate or lead a political committee and accept cryptocurrency? We want to hear from you. Email the authors of this article.
As candidates begin campaigning ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, credit cards, debit cards, and old-fashioned paper checks remain the coin of the realm for fueling their political efforts.
But a growing number are accepting cryptocurrencies, citing various reasons — inclusion, convenience, tax benefits, privacy — for doing so.
At best, rules for raising and spending cryptocurrency in federal elections are iffy. Congress has passed no law directly addressing the matter.
Guidelines that do exist, such as they are, largely stem from a 2014 advisory opinion by the Federal Election Commission that, most notably, established that political committees have the right to accept bitcoin.
The FEC likewise ruled that committees “should value that contribution based on the market value of bitcoins at the time the contribution is received.” If the price of bitcoin goes up while a political committee is in possession of it, the committee may legally profit.
The FEC’s ruling, however, is also rife with unanswered questions:
- Commissioners couldn’t agree on whether political committees may directly “purchase goods and services with bitcoins it has received as contributions.”
- The ruling specifically addresses bitcoin, the predominant cryptocurrency used in political elections, but doesn’t address by name various altcoins that have proliferated during the past seven years.
- While the FEC expressly says that political committees may accept up to $100 worth of bitcoin, it’s silent on whether it’s legal for committees to accept more. (Several have done so without ramification or otherwise found work-arounds. More about that soon.)
- Can super PACs, which may legally accept unlimited amounts of money to advocate for or against politicians, accept unlimited amounts of cryptocurrency? The FEC didn’t say.
- While the FEC provides guidelines for publicly reporting cryptocurrency contributions, an Insider review of federal records and data provided by nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets indicates political committees have not consistently followed them.
“Now is probably a good time for the government to start thinking about the most effective way to regulate cryptocurrency in our political campaigns,” said Austin Graham, an attorney at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.
Here are 17 federal political candidates and political committees that have, of late, led the way into the uncertain realm of cryptocurrency and elections.