Crypto is making its debut on the Wisconsin gubernatorial campaign trail. But the Wisconsin Ethics Commission isn’t sure how it feels about it.
Phil Anderson, chair of the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin, is immersed in his campaign for governor. His platform represents various libertarian ideals, such as economic freedom, criminal justice reform, and educational choice. True to his party, he is circumspect of governmental intervention and regulation.
He also believes in the power of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.
About a week ago, his campaign launched a donation portal on its website using BitPay, a global bitcoin payment service provider. Individuals both in Wisconsin and out of state can donate bitcoin or bitcoin cash.
“There were many, many people who expressed a desire to donate in bitcoin,” Anderson told ETHNews. “I know that there’s interest in it not only amongst libertarians and crypto enthusiasts but also the general public.”
However, the Wisconsin Ethics Commission has provided ambiguous feedback about Anderson’s acceptance of bitcoin donations. State statute allows donations of money and tangible assets, but there is no provision for an intangible asset such as cryptocurrency.
To get clarification, Anderson sent the commission a letter in January to request a judgment regarding the legality of cryptocurrency campaign donations. The authority held a hearing in April – where Anderson testified in support of the donations – but due to the complex nature of cryptocurrencies, the commissioners decided to refer the case to the Wisconsin State Assembly, the lower house of the state‘s legislature. Although the commission did not make a concrete decision, he does not believe it opposes this type of campaign contribution.
“They were just wrestling with the definition and what their understanding of cryptocurrencies was,” said Anderson.
The state assembly is yet to decide on Anderson’s case, but he went ahead and launched the crypto donation portal anyway. He believes that because of the security of BitPay (users must provide identifying information to donate) and his campaign’s consideration of contribution limits, there is no problem in accepting bitcoin.
“Since the portal is up and you can see exactly how it works and the information you have to enter to make a contribution, it’s extremely unlikely that the commission would step in,” said Anderson. “If they just take a look, they’ll see that we’re following all the rules.”
In the week since launching its portal, Anderson’s campaign has received a couple of small bitcoin donations, each worth around $20. He said the volume of cash donations, which his campaign has accepted for months, is not comparable with crypto at this time. With exposure, however, he believes that bitcoin donations will ramp up.
“If you ask me … in two months, we’ll have a better feel for what’s coming, but right now, the public is just finding out about [cryptocurrencies],” said Anderson. “We plan, through social media and the national Libertarian Party, to make sure people are aware of this and hopefully get some crypto donations from people outside of Wisconsin as well.”
Anderson went on to discuss the benefits of cryptocurrency outside of campaign contributions. For example, he said that as governor, he would try to set up a system wherein people could use cryptocurrency as a payment method for state government-related transactions, although he doubts “that [would] happen right away because there’s a tremendous bureaucracy in the way.” Also, if he were elected, he would try to prevent the government from regulating cryptocurrency.
“I’d be very, very careful about instituting any rules that imply that the government had the power to regulate it, even if they were supportive at this time,” said Anderson. “I would tread very lightly.”
Besides cryptocurrency, Anderson talked about the positive qualities of its underlying technology, blockchain. He said there is “tremendous potential for using the blockchain itself for governmental functions, for accountability, for information being available to people, for verification, and for voting and elections.”
Anderson hopes Wisconsin does not fall too far behind the crypto train. “We stand to benefit as a state if we’re a first adopter rather than waiting until everybody else does and then playing catch-up,” he said. He then described how the technology could potentially help the state, like with its imports and exports.
Obviously, much of the libertarian crowd endorses blockchain technology, as the party’s ideals and crypto often go hand in hand. Anderson’s campaign, then, lies at the crossroads of the quest for financial and political liberty.
The Wisconsin primary will be held August 14.