Meet the US Politicians Who Are Embracing Bitcoin
The long-awaited decision by the US Federal Election Commission (FEC) to allow political candidates to solicit campaign contributions in bitcoin was issued earlier this May, effectively giving campaigns the green-light to accept up to $100 per donor.
The decision, an advisory opinion, treats bitcoin as cash when establishing limits on donations, though they must be reported as in-kind contributions.
As a result of this announcement, a number of federal candidates have rushed to begin accepting the digital currency, joining an already strong number of local and state politicians.
However, the FEC's decision is by no means expansive. Wisconsin Alderman Mark Clear, for example, was forced to return the $100 in bitcoin that was donated to his campaign on 5th May.
He explained to CoinDesk:
"Because I'm running for a state office, it's the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), not the FEC, that governs the election."
But, while Clear and his campaign has not yet been able to take in any bitcoin fundraising, he is one of the many US politicians helping to increase awareness nationwide.
Here are the other forward-thinking candidates currently accepting bitcoin:
Greg Abbott, Candidate for Governor, Texas
The state attorney general for Texas since 2002, Abbott recently announced he would seek to become governor following the announcement that governor and former Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry would not seek a fourth term in office.
Abbott is currently collecting bitcoin donations via his website, which notes that Texas law allows political campaigns to "accept contributions of currency or other assets".
Notably, Abbott has suggested that bitcoin is a reflection of his broader political ideology, stating:
"Something as innovative as bitcoin is an opportunity for us to continue this focus, especially given the fact that it embodies free market principles, which Texans are very fond of."
Bob Barr, Candidate for US Representative, Georgia
A former four-term Congressman, Barr was first elected to the US House of Representatives in 1994. But recently announced he would accept donations for a new bid for a seat in Congress via Georgia-based merchant processor BitPay.
In 2008, Barr was the Libertarian presidential nominee, running against candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, though he ultimately only received 0.4% of the general election vote.
Barr is campaigning on a platform that calls for the federal government to cut taxes and spending. If re-elected, reports suggest he would be the first US Representative to return to office after a lengthy gap in service.
Paul Dietzel, Candidate for US Representative, Louisiana
A Republican from Louisiana's 6th Congressional district, Dietzel is running on a platform that calls for the US to pay back its national debt and balance its budget.
Dietzel announced via Twitter that he would accept bitcoin, and at press time, he is accepting bitcoin through his official campaign website.
— Paul Dietzel II (@PaulDietzel) May 8, 2014
Will Hammer, Candidate for US Representative, Virginia
A member of Libertarian Party of Virginia, Will Hammer took to reddit on 16th May to inform the bitcoin community that he would accept bitcoin as part of his campaign.
Hammer told CoinDesk that he is a bitcoin buyer and miner, having purchased two dedicated mining rigs. He elaborated on his passion for digital currency, saying:
"The genius of bitcoin is that it is not only a currency but also its own payment system. I love the idea of an open source, decentralised, encrypted, convenient and finite currency that just happens to be its own payment system as well."
In the post, Hammer noted that he is still focusing on getting out the vote for his campaign, and that he needs to collect 1,000 signatures by 10th June in order to appear on the ballot.
If elected, Hammer told the reddit community he would work to abolish the Federal Reserve.
Jared Polis, US Representative, Colorado
However, he has also provided the best demonstration to date of the benefits bitcoin donations can bring to a campaign. One week after the FEC decision, Polis raised $1,500 from 39 voters through California-based bitcoin exchange and wallet provider Coinbase.
Polis, who first took office in 2008, has since won two reelection campaigns, most recently in 2012 when he defeated Republican Kevin Lundberg with 55% of the vote.
Polis is currently raising money for his 2014 re-election campaign.
Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor, California
Once a self-proclaimed bitcoin detractor, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Newsom now says he is "fascinated" by the technology.
Announcing his decision via the San Francisco Chronicle on 20th May, Newsom wasted no time upping the ante for his own acceptance, even joking with Jared Polis that he aims to raise more than the Colorado Democrat in bitcoin donations.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) May 20, 2014
Newsom is also a published author, who has written about the intersection of digital innovation and politics. His book, Citizenville, penned with Lisa Dickey, was published in February, 2013.
He is currently campaigning for reelection this fall, and has been endorsed by The Los Angeles Times.
Bryan Parker, Candidate for Mayor, Oakland, California
One of the more outspoken proponents of the potential benefits of digital currency, Parker has championed bitcoin as a way to attract more technology companies to Oakland, address poverty and increase fundraising for civic development.
Parker's platform calls for "bold, progressive" action to promote increased economic activity in the city.
Parker notably held a bitcoin fundraiser in January that featured a talk from venture capitalist and newly elected Bitcoin Foundation board member Brock Pierce.
Steve Stockman, Candidate for Senator, Texas
A tenured politician who has served in various elected positions — including as a member of the House of Representatives — since the mid-1990s, Stockman is now accepting bitcoin donations through BitPay on his official campaign website.
Stockman notably made waves in the bitcoin community when he appeared at Inside Bitcoins NYC in April to declare he planned to introduce a new bill, the 'Virtual Currency Tax Reform Act', that would seek to question the IRS' ruling that bitcoin is property.
Stockman was positive in his remarks about the technology at the time, stating:
"We need to encourage [bitcoin], not discourage it. There is risk associated with every budding industry in America."
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