Federal Election Commission Says Political Action Committees Can Accept Payment Via Bitcoins

from the converted-into-dollars dept

After some amount of hand-wringing, the Federal Election Commission has said that political action committees (PACs) may accept bitcoin donations, though they can't then buy goods and services with those bitcoins. Furthermore, it has to convert the bitcoins to dollars before depositing them into its campaign accounts. In other words, its effectively allowing the use of bitcoin as a payment system, rather than as a currency. However, at the same time, it will allow campaigns to buy bitcoins as an investment vehicle.

There's also some confusion over what this all means. Rather than issuing a full ruling, the FEC released an "advisory opinion" based on a specific request from the Make Your Laws PAC, which specifically asked for the ability to accept bitcoin donations up to $100. What's not clear is if the FEC is just agreeing to that level of donations or if it's okaying larger donations as well. In fact, it appears that the FEC commissioners don't even agree with each other as to whether there's a limit on donation sizes:
That low sum assuaged the concerns of several commissioners about the risks of the virtual currency, said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic appointee.

"The $100 limit was really important to us," she said. "We have to balance a desire to accommodate innovation, which is a good thing, with a concern that we continue to protect transparency in the system and ensure that foreign money doesn't seep in."

[....] But FEC Chairman Lee Goodman, a Republican appointee to the panel, disagreed. He said that the advisory opinion treats bitcoin donations as in-kind contributions -- not official currency -- meaning that the only limits that apply are the federal caps on all forms of accepted donations. Those limit individuals to giving $2,600 to a candidate per election and $5,000 to a political action committee. Individuals and corporations can give unlimited sums to super PACs.

"To me, the opinion that the commission approved today supports the right of bitcoin users to contribute as they would all other kind things of value," he said, such as silver dollars and works of art.
So that's likely to create some sort of mess somewhere down the road.

In the meantime, it's notable that well-known techie -- and one of the small group of clued-in Congressional Representatives -- Jared Polis also just happened to announce today that you can donate to his campaign via bitcoin. Looking at that page, I note that the highest amount allowed is... $100. It would appear he's taking no chances with the disagreement over amounts allowed by the FEC. Polis claims to be the first Congressional rep to accept bitcoin, though others have pointed out that Rep. Steve Stockman has been accepting bitcoin for his Senate campaign for a few months now.

Either way, it's yet another step forward in making bitcoin somewhat more mainstream.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 5:00am

    That's some major milestone for the crypto currency. And to think many mocked it as a fad (specially when Mt Gox went belly up).

    I wonder if it can become big enough to completely replace online transactions given its trade simplicity?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Emil O. W. Kirkegaard, May 9th, 2014 @ 5:34am

    Re: replace?

    Replace? CCs are online transactions. In fact, they are online-only transactions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:17am


    Impossible. There is a maximum amount of bitcoins, and no amount of effort will make more of them unless someone alters the entire thing to increase the limit. And since they're based on hashes, doing that will probably invalidate every existing bitcoin.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Ninja (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:23am

    Re: Re: replace?

    Paypal and the likes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Ninja (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re:

    Bitcoins can be traded in decimals. So it doesn't really matter if the maximum is, say, 100 bitcoins. You can split them in 1000 (0,1 per user) 100000 and more. What will matter is the value of each small part. I'm fairly sure that services aren't charging one full bitcoin today for something because it's valued at hundreds of dollars.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    RonKaminsky (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 7:27am

    Nice troll

    > and no amount of effort will make more of them
    > unless someone alters the entire thing to increase the limit

    • They are divisible in 0.00000001 units
    • If they were in such high demand, the value of 1 BTC would almost certainly adjust to enable the "limited" supply to fit the demand.
    • The amount of divisibility of 1 BTC could easily be adjusted without affecting the value of 1 BTC or invalidating the Bitcoin blockchain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    PRMan, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:33am


    Buy now. There's still time to get in on this rocketship. It's becoming more apparent every day that bitcoin is here to stay.

    Just yesterday, the Winklevoss Bitcoin Fund was approved to be listed on NASDAQ.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2014 @ 7:36am

    Re: Nice troll

    Dang, caught by math! :)
    Not hugely surprised though, I hadn't put a ton of effort into making sure I was right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    avideogameplayer, May 9th, 2014 @ 8:22am

    I wonder what would happen if all the political candidates start taking bit coins?

    I can just imagine the horrors when shit hits the fan when bit coins end up becoming worthless...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Andrew Norton (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 8:46am

    It's not THAT ground breaking a ruling.
    The Mass. Pirate Party has been collecting donations via bitcoin for the last several months http://torrentfreak.com/pirate-party-can-collect-political-donations-in-bitcoin-govt-says-140204/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    kumar, May 9th, 2014 @ 8:50am

    hellooo!!!!Guys, trade your Bitcoin for OlympicCoin (OLY) on Mintpal, it is so cheap right now. OLY only has 58million coins in total and you can buy 1million of them right now for less than 1BTC... that means in a few weeks the 1million will be easily worth 10BTC! OLY developers are working on new projects - that's all you need to know. REPOST to spread the word. Time for us all to get rich!
    try it and get it !!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Stosh (profile), May 9th, 2014 @ 9:19am

    All the security of who's contributing as the illegal drug trade has, what could possibly go wrong?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2014 @ 8:18am

    *I agree 100 percent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    GEMont (profile), May 10th, 2014 @ 10:23am

    No biznez like Snow biznez...

    Sounds to me like these "employees" that the DOJ does not wish to name or prosecute, were providing an illegal service of some sort which the DOJ was happy to pay for via the methods described.

    Perhaps they were really being paid to run dirty-tricks or scams from home on special service computers against certain individuals... such as say, Muslims that the Fed wanted to make into spies.... or performing other clandestine services that would have been embarrassing had they been discovered as official operations.

    In this manner, illegal operations can be performed safely by paid minions, completely outside the work environment and with total federal "deniability" for their actions and the taxpayers can foot the bill.

    When exposed, simply retire them from that operation, without naming them, and then rehire them under a different agency for similar or identical purposes a few months later.

    Now that is precisely the sort of thing I'd expect from the United States Federal Government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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