Posts Tagged ‘usa today’

Bitcoin in Politics: 3 Arguments For and Against

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

IN JUST THE past few years, the degree to which American politics has become awash with cash has well exceeded the absurdity of Monopoly, a game in which large sums of money are thrown about so carelessly that one almost whimsically wishes it were real.  But things haven’t become so farcical that Monopoly money is actually used in the political arena.  Or have they?

The Conservative Action Fund (CAF) has requested that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) accept Bitcoin, an open source “cryptocurrency,” as a legitimate form of political contribution.  The commission has until the end of next month to reply with an advisory opinion.

It’s helpful to know the case for and against potential approval by the FEC. The CAF rests its request on three main arguments:

  1. Bitcoin is a form of money;  it’s exchanged as an imaginary thing of value, similar in concept to any dollar, euro, pound sterling, etc.
  2. Bitcoin’s popularity is soaring, i.e., it’s legitimacy is supported by its growing use.  The total value of all Bitcoins in circulation is currently over $1.3 billion.
  3. There’s an appetite for Bitcoins in the political arena.  Parties and candidates want to accept them and they want to spend them.  In fact, the Libertarian Party already does both.

These are undoubtedly compelling arguments, and will likely receive unyielding approval from libertarians, most of whom disapprove of the FEC’s very existence.  Yet regardless of where the support emanates, there’s force behind these two words: why not?  Why not permit the use of Bitcoin if there’s a case for its legitimacy and clear evidence of its popularity?

The most detailed arguments will potentially come from the advisory opinion itself, but a few have been floating in cyberspace, articulated by such sources as USA Today, Bloomberg, and Fox.  Here are three:

  1. Bitcoin is not accepted as legal tender in any nation.  It’s even banned in some corners of the world.  Why should the FEC recognize an underground currency?
  2. Bitcoin’s value against the U.S. dollar is prone to extreme fluctuation.  The CAF even recognizes this in its proposal, and links to a graph illustrating Bitcoins’ crashes.  The USA Today asks “How should a political committee handle a Bitcoin contribution of $199 that jumps in value to $205 by the time the deposit hits the committee’s campaign account?”
  3. It’s unclear whether a donation of Bitcoins should be treated as an in-kind or monetary contribution.  This dilemma matters immensely, which the CAF admits.  If a Bitcoin donation were treated as an in-kind contribution, its value would be equal to its “usual and normal value on the date it is received.”  If it were treated as a monetary contribution, its value would be “readily apparent.”  Which of these two nearly opposite designations is correct is certainly not readily apparent.

Clearly there is sound logic to support both sides of the argument.  If the FEC is ready to employ nothing but sound logic in its response, then spectators like your humble blogger are in for an interesting and fruitful dialogue.  But one can only hope for such an elevated discussion; the more likely outcome is politics as usual. 

Lobbying at a Glance

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 by Geoffrey Lyons

FRANK FAHRENKOPF, former chairman of the RNC from ’83-’89, is stepping down as head of the American Gaming Association (AGA). The AGA spent $4.2 million on lobbying in 2011-2012 (Center for Reponsive Politics). “Competition for the prestigious AGA job is likely to be intense. Fahrenkopf earned more than $1.9 million in compensation in 2010, according to the AGA’s tax form for that year, making it one of the highest-paying lobby jobs in Washington.” – The Hill

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), who served in Congress from ’95-’03, announced that he will become a lobbyist: “LaTourette and his wife will open a Washington, D.C.-based government affairs subsidiary of McDonald Hopkins LLC, a large Cleveland, Ohio law firm. Jennifer LaTourette, a lobbyist with Van Scoyoc and Associates who has represented the Airports Council International, will join him in the new office overlooking Capitol Hill, according to a press release.” – Roll Call

Sandy Hook has apparently elicited a tectonic shift in the advocacy community: “The classic lobbying nemeses over gun laws have been the National Rifle Association and the Washington gun control group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. But the Newtown tragedy is prompting some locally based advocacy groups that have previously been silent on gun control to consider stepping in.” – The Washington Post

In the same vein, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, Mark Kelly, launched an online anti-gun violence campaign called Americans for Responsible Solutions: “The website launch is accompanied by an op-ed in USA Today, coming on the two-year anniversary of the shooting attack that killed six and wounded another 12 people on Jan. 8, 2011″ – Politico

According to new research, lobbyists should think twice about boosting their ego: “A growing body of research, including new studies by Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen, suggest that self-compassion, rather than self-esteem, may be the key to unlocking your true potential for greatness.” – Harvard Business Review