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FEC approves Bitcoin for campaign contributions

It’s the right call.

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday voted to allow political committees to accept Bitcoin donations and outlined the ways that the virtual currency can be used by federally regulated campaigns.

Responding to a request from a political action committee, the commissioners unanimously approved an advisory opinion that defined Bitcoins, which allows for online transactions without going through a bank or other third party, as “money or anything of value” — in essence, cash or an in-kind contribution.

They also imposed some restrictions, ruling that Bitcoin donations will be capped at a cash equivalent of $100 per person per cycle, with the value determined at the time of the donation, and that a complete accounting of name, address and employer must accompany the donation.

Committees can liquidate a Bitcoin contribution immediately, or they can choose to keep it as an investment, in the same way they do with stocks and bonds. Since the value of the virtual currency can fluctuate suddenly, the opportunity for a windfall is real, but is growing rarer as it stabilizes.

The opinion also allows committees to buy Bitcoins on the open market, but prohibits them from using the coins to pay for goods or services. They must be liquidated into United States currency before being spent.

See here for the background, and here for the FEC opinion. I don’t see this as being a big deal – I still think Bitcoin is a lot of sound and fury – but I see no reason not to treat Bitcoin as something of value that can be given to and used by a PAC. Better to allow it and regulate it than to ignore it and hope it goes away.

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