Science and Tech


FEC Allows PAC To Start Accepting Bitcoin Donations

For the first time, the Federal Election Commission gave the go-ahead for a political group to accept small amounts of Bitcoin.
Posted at 9:29 PM, May 08, 2014

What a difference a day makes. On Wednesday, one government agency called out Bitcoin for being a potential vehicle for fraud and abuse. Thursday, another government agency said the cryptocurrency is A-OK in politics.

That's right, in a unanimous decision, the Federal Election Commission gave a political action committee the go-ahead to start accepting small donations in the form of Bitcoin.

The PAC in question, called Make Your Laws, is a non-partisan group aiming to make the U.S. political system more direct. It had asked the FEC to let it accept Bitcoin donations up to $100, as long as the donations were public.

But Thursday's decision wasn't an official rule change. It was just a response to this one PAC's request, meaning that $100 limit isn't set in stone. 

The Center for Public Integrity says the decision "left open as many questions as it answered" and didn't address issues like whether it considers Bitcoin a form of cash or whether super PACs could raise unlimited bitcoins.

They did lay down one rule, though: Make Your Laws can't spend Bitcoin directly. The PAC has to sell the currency first, converting it into U.S. dollars, making Bitcoin donations in practice work more like an investment.

Of course, the uncertainty isn't stopping politicians from going head and accepting Bitcoin themselves.

Democratic Congressman Jared Polis tweeted out that he would accept Bitcoin just hours after the FEC decision. Greg Abbott, the GOP's candidate for governor of Texas, already accepts the crypto currency on his website. And, to no one's surprise, the Libertarian Party does, too.

A writer for Time says, "​The FEC is notorious for its gridlock and lax enforcement of existing campaign finance regulations, and its decision doesn't necessarily mean political committees won't test and stretch the limits by using Bitcoin for more political spending."

The FEC's decision comes just a day after the SEC had a few unkind things to say about Bitcoin, warning investors it "does not have an established track record of credibility and trust" and is a target for fraudsters and risky investment schemes.