Kansas has a message for Bitcoin owners who might be thinking about using the world’s most well-known digital currency to contribute to their preferred candidates in the state: don’t. According to report in the Lawrence Journal-World, the state’s Governmental Ethics Commission considered the issue this week and determined that the cryptocurrency cannot be used to contribute to candidates running in state or local campaigns.
The Commission’s Executive Director, Mark Skoglund requested that the panel take up the issue on Wednesday, in response to a candidate who wanted to know whether campaigns could legally accept the digital currency from contributors. Skoglund noted,
"Bitcoin is a digital currency. There is no physical manifestation of this currency in any way. It’s just alphanumeric characters that exist only online. It is not backed by any government. The value is subjective and highly volatile. However, there are millions of people who utilize bitcoin."
Skoglund also said that there have been no rulings from state ethics boards allowing Bitcoin contributions in local and state elections. There was a Federal Election Commission advisory opinion in 2014 that determined that the cryptocurrency could be used for campaign contributions in federal elections, but that opinion has no bearing on how state and local officials manage their contribution concerns.
The Journal-World reports that Commissioner Jerome Hellmer described the idea as too risky:
"The greatest problem would be the strong probability of the influencing of local elections by totally unidentifiable lobbyists trying to come in. If you think the Russians affected the presidential elections, just wait. This is what’s going to happen."
It should be noted, of course, that no evidence has come to light suggesting that the “Russians affected” the presidential election in 2016 – despite rampant media hysteria and speculation. Nevertheless, the Commissioner’s point has some validity, since most Americans expect a certain level of transparency when it comes to election-related matters. From Hellmer’s perspective, Bitcoin fails that test:
"It’s totally contrary to the transparency we’re asking for our political system to provide to the public."