The state’s ethics commission held a hearing today for public input on allowing bitcoin to be used to make political campaign contributions. Wisconsin could join the federal government, Washington D-C and Montana in allowing bitcoin campaign contributions.
Phil Anderson, chair of the Wisconsin Libertarian Party, says the rules adopted in the last legislative session allow for campaign contributions in the form of cryptocurrency, but the language is not completely clear. Anderson says he requested further guidance from the ethics commission.
Anderson is also running for governor as a Libertarian to replace Governor Scott Walker this fall.
Anderson says many donors to his party are interested in participating in an economy without government backed currency and have requested making contributions using a cryptocurrency like bitcoin.
Executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Matt Rothschild says bitcoins used in political campaigns concern him because it’s hard to verify the identity of the donor, like it is with checks or credit cards.
Plus, cryptocurrency isn’t government-backed, so its value can vary largely in even just the course of a day. Rothschild says that could mean a donation that is under the legal limit one day, could spike to over the legal limit very quickly.
Anderson says there are already many ways to contribute to political campaigns that are hard to trace and cryptocurrency would not deteriorate accountability any further. He also says if bitcoin contributions had to be converted to dollars and reported as such by politicians then valuation would not be an issue.
Rothschild says Wisconsin has enough problems with campaign finance laws and doesn’t want to add another source of contributions that could make further diminish accountability.
“It’s a matter of time before there’s a huge corruption scandal dealing with bitcoin,” Rothschild says.
The ethics commission could give an interpretation of the rules which would be effective immediately or ask the legislature to revisit which would prevent any change from taking place till the fall.