Political candidates should really start paying more attention to crypto-markets, as it could be a new frontier for increased campaign contributions.
Last year, Missouri Republican Austin Petersen’s campaign for Senate received 24 separate Bitcoin donations, according to a campaign issued statement released mid-January — and one of them was the largest single Bitcoin donation in federal election history. The donation — 0.284 of a Bitcoin — was instantly converted to dollars by a Bitcoin processor when it was received on December 20th, 2017. Because of bitcoin’s market value at that time, it was worth $4,500.
“I think it goes without saying we’re going to see a lot more of this in terms of campaign contributions and campaign financing,” Jeff Carson, the campaign manager for Petersen’s Senate bid told ABC News. Accepting cryptocurrencies as campaign contributions, Carson added, lines up with Petersen’s political philosophy: “Austin is personally a fan of competition in the marketplace, even when it comes to our currency,” he said. “With the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, it was a no-brainer for us to use those.”
This isn’t the first campaign in which people have supported candidates using cryptocurrency. Rand Paul accepted Bitcoin campaign contributions during his 2016 presidential bid. Before that, in 2014, Jared Polis accepted Bitcoin donations in his congressional campaign — the same year the Federal Election Commission announced that it would allow individuals to contribute to political campaigns using the digital currency.
Now, four years down the line, Bitcoin as campaign currency has become less of a novelty, with campaigns from both Republicans and Democrats accepting the coin. Experts say the increase in Bitcoin campaign contributions is a natural progression that follows the ever-growing popularity of cryptocurrencies.
Shone Anstey, the executive chairman of Blockchain Intelligence Group, a risk analytics company for Bitcoin encrypted currencies, told ABC News it was “inevitable.” “It certainly has taken off aggressively with the dramatic rise in price [of Bitcoin],” he said. “It’s also taken off aggressively with millennials, who are glued to their phones and have taken to cryptocurrencies very naturally.” And there is another crop of campaign donors who are likely to use Bitcoin: the newly rich. “There are a number of people who have become very crypto-rich,” Anstey said, calling them “a whole new class of investors who have made a lot of money.”
In 2014, the FEC determined it was acceptable for campaigns to accept Bitcoin in a case involving the Make Your Laws PAC, a non-affiliated political action committee, as long as the donations were limited to the equivalent of $100 per individual and steps were taken to disclose the contact information of the donors.
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