The Chairman of the Wisconsin state Libertarian Party and candidate for state Governor Phil Anderson has announced he is accepting campaign donations in Bitcoin for the 2018 Wisconsin gubernatorial election.
Loosely defined legislature
His position has sparked discussion due to mixed interpretations of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency donations to election campaigns in the United States. Currently, a 2014 advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) offers a loose guideline for the matter.
The FEC concludes that Bitcoin is “money or anything with value”, which allows it to fall within the act that defines contributions as “any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office”.
Furthermore, the Bitcoin received by campaigns can’t be spent directly, it must be “liquidated” and then funds deposited into accounts. However, this hasn’t chimed with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission (WEC) who is of the belief that donations such as this appear to be illegal.
In April, the WEC was approached by the state’s Libertarian Party to provide “formal guidance” on the matter and then later in May, the chairmen of Senate and Assembly election committees were asked by the WEC to “provide clarity to candidates and committees as to whether they may accept contributions of cryptocurrency”.
According to Wisconsin local media outlet Journal Sentinel, the WEC has written “allowing cryptocurrency contributions presents a serious challenge to the commission’s ability to ensure compliance with state law”.
State of affairs
At the end of May, Colorado state had made proposals for a new set of rules regarding financing campaigns, which included a section on cryptocurrencies. In 2017, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission ruled out the possibly due to it being highly risky, with Commissioner Jerome Hellmer saying, “It’s totally contrary to the transparency we’re asking for our political system to provide to the public.”
He also cited fears of “unidentified lobbyists” being in the position to influence local elections, which he believed was a strong possibility, also adding, “If you think the Russians affected the presidential elections, just wait. This is what’s going to happen.”
Earlier in July 2018, 12 Russians were indicted for interfering with the 2016 US presidential elections; the alleged hackers supposedly stole the information of over 500,000 voters and hacked email accounts of volunteers and employees of Hilary Clinton’s campaign.
In this instance, it was revealed that over USD 95,000 was allegedly laundered via Bitcoin to fund the operation, purchasing hardware and utilized to buy servers, registry domains and other preparations.
It comes as no surprise that now the WEC will be approaching the matter with a greater cynicism than before, and is challenging the integrity as well as the security of Bitcoin donations. Though this hasn’t deterred Anderson who says that he and the Libertarian Party will “push all the way back” should the WEC file a complaint.
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