In the run-up to the 2018 November federal elections in the United States, at least three politicians are accepting bitcoin in donation, including an incumbent House member. One hopeful, Austin Petersen, is openly discussing the world’s most popular cryptocurrency’s benefits in his bid to win a US Senate seat.
Austin Petersen for US Senate is a Big Fan of Bitcoin
“I am a big fan of the digital currency community because of what it represents, which is ultimately decentralization,” Mr. Petersen, 36, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Mr. Petersen is running to unseat Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill, 64, Missouri’s first female Senator. She assumed her seat nearly a dozen years ago by a slim margin of victory, but her reelection in 2012 saw her easily defeat the challenger by 25 points.
Though Mr. Petersen is considered a long shot to even win the Republican Party nomination, Ms. McCaskill is considered vulnerable due to Missouri voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Her position on bitcoin is not known.
Mr. Petersen is something of a celebrity in circles traditionally traveled by bitcoiners, such as libertarians and cryptoanarchists. His background is largely in media. He was a producer on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Freedom Watch and he is founder of the popular website The Libertarian Republic.
“I make no bones about the fact that I am not a fan of central banking,” Mr. Petersen explained. “I come from the Austrian School of Economics, which argues that a central bank is not necessary for the finance of a government,” he said.
A Queer Way to Finance Elections
To outsiders, the US electoral system is queer. Most elections around the world are publicly financed. US politicians, with the exception of the presidential race, in which a candidate can opt for public matching funds, must raise money from a variety of sources, corporate and citizen.
Mr. Petersen continues, bitcoin “is a way for us to have a means of transfer between citizens that doesn’t involve having to go through a Federal Reserve System.” He’s known to also attend bitcoin meetups, which happen to be in the same building as his headquarters.
The US has a bicameral federal law-making body, comprised of a lower and upper chamber. Its deliberative body, the United States Senate, is based on balancing smaller states’ influence. Each state has two seats for a total of 100 senators. Republicans hold a four-seat majority going in to the 2018 election.
Bitcoin “means a lot to us, symbolically,” he said, “but it also means a lot for the currency itself, because if we can show we can fundraise with this, then that means that Bitcoin shows stability, and actually bolsters the argument for cryptocurrency,” Mr. Petersen urged.
It’s also tricky to stay within legal boundaries of giving. With bitcoin ramping up in price, donations can easily turn into potential campaign violations. The current limit is 2,700 USD, and Mr. Petersen said he’s already had to return a donation that ballooned to 20,000 USD.
This is not the first time he’s run for national office. During 2016, Mr. Petersen came in second with 21% of the vote in the Libertarian Party presidential race, behind ill-fated candidate Gary Johnson.
He’s also not the only federal politician this cycle to accept bitcoin. Current House member Congressman Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado, and California hopeful for congress, Brian Forde, a Democrat, are taking donations in the digital asset.
So far, Mr. Petersen’s campaign says its raised about 300,000 USD, and the vast majority of that is in fiat.
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Images via Pixabay, Austin Petersen.
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