Candidates for public office in California may soon be able to accept cryptocurrencies as donations.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission met on Thursday to discuss a number of election issues facing the Golden State, including whether candidates for public office can accept cryptocurrencies as part of campaign donations.
Ultimately, the commissioners didn’t make a decision to adopt any of the proposed amendments during the hearing, acknowledging that they don’t understand the issue fully. Back in 2014, the Federal Election Commission ruled that federal election law allows for candidates to accept cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as an in-kind donation.
During the hearing on Thursday, chairwoman Alice Germond indicated that a set definition for a “cryptocurrency” is needed, remarking:
“I would be inclined to think that bitcoin is a thing that is not U.S. money but is more like a currency, like the euro. But I would like to hear more to develop my thinking on this.”
More time to study
A public comment from Nicolas Heidorn – policy and legal director of the nonpartisan political advocacy organization California Common Cause – suggested allowing cryptocurrency donations until the commission has further studied the matter. In the end, the commissioners disagreed with the idea.
Commissioner Allison Hayward, in particular, pushed back against the idea of banning cryptocurrencies as donations outright, saying that she would like to gather more information before making a decision.
“I think cryptocurrencies are obviously new and designed to be confidential but the blockchain technology I think might ultimately be a very robust tool in tracing activity,” Hayward said, adding:
“I don’t think we’re there yet, but I would hate for something we do to forestall that later on. I don’t know what that would be but … blockchain might be a very useful tool for us and I’d hate to prevent that.”
Commissioners Brian Hatch and Frank Cardenas both said they disagreed with the concept of an outright ban, but in the case of Hatch, the issue of fraud remains a paramount one. He raised the prospect of a candidate claiming a crypto-donation that came from within the state, when, in reality, it actually had a different point of origin.
The commissioners came to a brief agreement that a cap of roughly $100 per donation may be appropriate for this year’s midterm elections. The commission would then be able to continue studying the matter in 2019, when there wouldn’t be an immediate election to consider.
However, this suggestion was not formally adopted during Thursday’s meeting. The commission will meet again next month to discuss the issue.