Libertarian candidate to accept Bitcoin donations despite warning from Ethics Commission

A pile of Bitcoins are shown here after Software engineer Mike Caldwell minted them in his shop on April 26, 2013 in Sandy, Utah. Bitcoin is an experimental digital currency used over the Internet that is gaining in popularity worldwide.(Photo: Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

MADISON – The Libertarian candidate for governor says he will accept campaign donations in Bitcoin, despite a state Ethics Commission finding that such donations appear to be illegal.

“We will not allow the lack of appropriate interpretation of the current statute (to) affect the First Amendment rights of those who want to show support and contribute,” said a statement from Phil Anderson, who is running for governor and is the chairman of the state Libertarian Party.

“I have no faith in the Assembly to handle this fairly nor expeditiously.” 

Anderson asked the Ethics Commission to allow candidates to accept Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency. In May, the commission referred the matter to the Legislature because it found a contribution in cryptocurrency “does not appear to fit” the acceptable categories spelled out in statutes.  

In its letter to Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha), the commission suggested the Legislature address two facets of cryptocurrency: its constantly changing value; and the anonymity of donations. 

The commission wrote that as it stands, “allowing cryptocurrency contributions presents a serious challenge to the commission’s ability to ensure compliance with state law.”

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Etherium, are internet-based currencies that can be used to buy goods or services. They were founded on the principle that currencies should be decentralized.

Anderson emphasized that he believes he and his party are complying with the law.

“We’re not thumbing our nose at the (commission),” he said. 

If a complaint is filed against him and the Ethics Commission intervenes, Anderson said he and the party are “going to push back all the way.” 

The payment method has been under increased scrutiny after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian spies noted their operation was funded using $95,000 worth of cryptocurrencies. 

The spies used hundreds of email accounts to mask their trail. 

Regardless, Anderson said there shouldn’t be any concern regarding donations to his campaign. His portal uses Bitpay and requests donors’ names, addresses and phone numbers. 

“We’re interpreting the rules that the state Legislature has set forth,” said Anderson.   

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