Greg Abbott’s campaign announced last week it would begin accepting bitcoin contributions, but with the fluctuating value of the currency many political experts see the move as more of a way for Abbott to attract a certain type of supporter.
Abbott wrote in a memo:
“The spirit of Bitcoin embodies the free market principles that make Texas a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship.”
But how do regulatory agencies handle bitcoins? Professor Brian Roberts, who teaches political science at the University of Texas at Austin and specializes in campaign finance laws, said most regulatory agencies treat bitcoins as in-kind donations.
“It obviously sounds kind of sexy and on the fringe, but when you come down to it on a regulatory point of view it’s no different than accepting diamonds or stock or whatever,” Roberts said.
Roberts said for many the name "bitcoin" conjures the image of someone hiding in the shadows, but according to the Texas Ethics Commission a campaign must collect the bitcoin donor’s name and contact information just like any other contribution.
Other than the coolness factor, accepting bitcoin contributions is risky for a campaign.
“The volatility of the values would be something that any campaign would be a little bit nervous about,” Roberts said.
Roberts said if candidates simply hold on to these bitcoins the value is up and down from day to day, and would be a logistical pain if they are not familiar with virtual markets.