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Bitcoin hits the campaign trail

In a first for Maine, two 2014 political campaigns have decided to accept Bitcoin, a digital currency, reports Michael Sheperd in the Kennebec Journal released late Saturday.

Announcements were made earlier this month from two candidates that they were accepting Bitcoin. The candidates, Republican Eric Brakey, a state senate candidate from New Gloucester; and Blaine Richardson, an independent Belfast conservative running to represent Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

About two weeks ago, Brakey sent a tweet with a screen shot of the state’s first Bitcoin campaign contribution: 0.1133 Bitcoin or about $91 at its Friday price.

While Brakey said only 'several hundred' dollars had come in Bitcoin, he said it’s still worthwhile. ‘It’s attracted a lot of young people who are digitally savvy, and it’s just a constituency that Bitcoin is attractive to.’

Matthew McDonald, Richardson’s campaign manager, said the campaign has only 0.13 Bitcoin, or about $105, as of Friday. He said it’s not necessarily the money, but the buzz surrounding Bitcoin that makes accepting it beneficial.

“It’s cutting-edge,” said Richardson’s campaign manager. ‘Our campaign’s experimenting with technology and avenues that no campaign in Maine’s history has ever dealt with in the past.

Currently there are only 21 million Bitcoins released with 12 million in circulation. In that way, the system negates the effect of monetary inflation, because finding new coins doesn’t devalue the ones in circulation. That arrangement has made Bitcoin popular in many circles, especially among libertarians distrustful of centralized currency systems. For example, the national Libertarian Party platform calls for ending ‘inflationary monetary policies’ federally.

Brakey runs the libertarian Defense of Liberty political action committee and was the Maine director of the 2012 presidential campaign of Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican who used to represent part of Texas in Congress and wrote a 2009 book, ‘End the Fed,’ which advocates abolishing the Federal Reserve, the United States’ central banking system. McDonald also was a Paul supporter in 2012.

Because the Fed is printing money, Brakey offers that people are tired of it and the devaluation of money.

Both Brakey and McDonald said they have small amounts of Bitcoin themselves, and McDonald says its appeal among many stems from its being ‘pure capitalistic currency.’

But Bitcoin isn’t officially recognized as currency, even though many businesses, such as Overstock.com, have started to accept it as payment. The list is growing longer with mainstream retail accepting it, cars purchased, homes offered for sale in Bitcoin, some casinos in Las Vegas and merchants in Berlin, London and San Diego have been touting it because it saves on merchant fees that they must pay to financial institutions and banks to accept credit cards.

The six-person Federal Election Commission deadlocked in a November vote on whether to issue an opinion about campaigns or committees accepting Bitcoin. The day before, FEC staff issued a draft advisory opinion saying that candidates and committees probably could accept them as in-kind contributions essentially, a gift.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, said his staff still is formulating an official guidance to candidates on accepting Bitcoin, but he is inclined to ask that candidates report Bitcoin donations as cash contributions, not as in-kind contributions.

Brakey’s system forces the donors to give their names and addresses while reporting, just as they would for any other contribution.

The New York Times reported Friday that the N.Y. Dept. of Financial Services will hold a hearing next week to clarify Bitcoin’s role in the financial system.

To find out more about Bitcoin, please, see the list below in Author’s suggestions and the video atop this article how Bitcoin has NBA support. Click on ‘subscribe’ for new article releases.