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.