U.S. lawmakers have been ramping up their efforts to regulate bitcoin and other digital currencies. Recently, advocacy groups who focus on government transparency have been growing concerned about politicians drafting laws while not disclosing their interests in cryptocurrencies.
Ethics and Government Transparency Groups Want Politicians to Fully Disclose Digital Currency Holdings
Over the past few months, U.S. regulators and appointed lawmakers have been researching and drafting regulatory guidelines for digital assets like bitcoin. Last year the Colorado Democrat Jared Polis and Arizona Republican David Schweikert initiated the Congressional Blockchain Caucus. The caucus was created to help bureaucrats develop regulatory policies towards cryptocurrencies and their blockchain networks. Both Schweikert and Polis established the Cryptocurrency Tax Fairness Act, while other U.S. lawmakers have been also drafting legislative rules for digital assets.
According to a recent report, cryptocurrency advocacy among elected politicians concerns members of the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency think-tank, the Office of Government Ethics, and other transparency groups.
“Whether a member of Congress has holdings of bitcoin is relevant to our understanding of where someone’s interests might lie,” Alex Howard the Sunlight Foundation’s deputy director explains in an interview.
Bitcoin and Blockchain Supporting Lawmakers Purposely Decide to Not Hold Cryptocurrencies Due to Conflict of Interest
Just recently news.Bitcoin.com reported on the California representative Diane Feinstein drafting a bill requiring U.S. citizens to disclose their cryptocurrency assets. Moreover, during a recent judiciary hearing, Senator Feinstein explains the bill “criminalizes intentionally concealing ownership or control” of a digital accounts.
Staff members from the offices of Polis and Schweikert have detailed that both members of Congress do not hold bitcoins or other digital assets. Schweikert’s congressional team member, Ashley Sylvester, explains the lawmaker “purposely” made this decision in order to avoid a conflict of interest during regulatory decision making. Louise Slaughter, who sponsored the 2012 Stock Act, a law that requires politicians to disclose assets including stocks and bonds, believes currencies like bitcoin should be included.
“The Stock Act was written so the public could trust that members of Congress weren’t personally profiting from the office they hold,” Slaughter emphasizes.
No one should be able to get around this law, including members who invest in digital currencies.
Disclosing Foreign Currency Speculation and Proposing a Crypto-Transparency Rule
The Democratic representative Jared Polis said he plans to discuss a new regulatory guideline with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission that ensures politicians and staff disclose cryptocurrency holdings.
“Members of Congress should absolutely be required to disclose their bitcoin holdings, as to avoid any conflict of interests — The public deserves transparency,” Polis explains responding to the idea that digital currencies should be represented in laws like the 2012 Stock Act.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute executive Jim Harper believes if bitcoin was purely operated as a currency and not a speculative commodity as well then things might be different. “If bitcoin were just purely a currency there is an argument that you wouldn’t have to report it — With the IRS treating virtual currency as property for tax purposes, he added, “the spirit of transparency would require disclosure,” Harper details. The research group’s vice president also says that ethics committees should apply digital currencies to foreign currency speculation especially if they are members of foreign affairs groups that deal with various monetary legislation.
Do you think politicians should disclose whether they hold bitcoin or other digital currencies if they are drafting laws tethered to the technology’s industry? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments below.
Images via Shutterstock, Congress.gov, The Sunlight Foundation, Government Ethics Board, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.