US Representative Steve Stockman (R – Texas) has announced that he intends to accept Bitcoin contributions as part of his longshot US Senate campaign, report Tom Moroney and Peter Robison at BloombergBusinessweek. Stockman, who most people expected to sit tight in his House seat, is challenging the popular Republican Senator John Cornyn in the Republican primary, and is currently down more than 40 points in the race.
Stockman appealing to crypto-libertarians
Stockman has made a number of inflammatory statements while campaigning (calling liberal tears the best gun lubricant is a good example), so the announcement is probably an attention-grabbing move that gives him an opportunity to talk about financial freedom and independence, buzzwords that appeal to both Texas conservatives / libertarians and to Bitcoin’s crypto community. He recently told an audience outside the Bitcoin Center in New York that, “all the time people are trying to get into your pocket, trying to do different things to control you, and if you have your own wealth and control your own wealth, it’s about freedom.” But even if you think his position is more about politics than good campaign management, it does raise serious questions about Bitcoin’s legal status.
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FEC has yet to rule on Bitcoin’s legal status
The Federal Election Commission discussed the matter in November, Ben Goad of The Hill reports, but was unable to reach a consensus on whether to treat Bitcoin as in-kind contributions, which is how equities are currently valued. The FEC had previously hinted that it would allow Bitcoin contributions but got stuck at 3-3 (a clear majority is needed for approval).
Even if the FEC decides it wants to allow them, anonymous Bitcoin contributions would fly in the face of campaign contribution limits. Creating a system that allows non-anonymous Bitcoin contributions would be unwieldy and kind of defeats the purpose of the whole exercise. Deciding how to value a contribution made in something as high variance as Bitcoins creates its own accounting headaches.
Since the FEC hasn’t made a final ruling regarding Bitcoin contributions, Stockman could be getting himself in trouble if he accepts them now, though he may be banking on the populist appeal of appearing to be defiantly anti-government.