Congressional Candidate Patrick Nelson To Accept Bitcoin Donations Ahead of 2018 Election

A candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 has announced he is accepting donations via bitcoin, in a move that is thought to be one of the first of its kind in congressional fundraising in the U.S.

Patrick Nelson, who filed back in January to stand in the election in New York’s 21st congressional district, is accepting donations in the digital currency via BitPay, a payment processing startup with a particular focus on handling digital currency payments.

While Nelson himself has relied on bitcoin donations in the past, notably ahead of his unsuccessful town council campaign in 2015, the move can be seen as a watershed moment for the development and profile of bitcoin as a mainstream currency.

A former staffer at New York’s state legislature and confirmed Bernie Sanders enthusiast, Nelson is vying for the nomination against two other Democrat candidates. Donations are being capped at a maximum of $100 in bitcoin per donor, and can be accounted for under existing campaign financing rules.

At present, bitcoin donations are treated as “in kind” contributions, thanks to a ruling from the FEC in 2014 which gave explicit permission for raising funds in this way.

However, some, including the FEC, have spoken about a change in electoral laws, which could treat bitcoin and other digital currencies in the same way as cash in future electoral campaigns.

At a meeting last September, the issue of a change in legislation was raised for discussion, but as yet no further headway has been made.

Reflecting on his decision, Nelson said his ambition was to modernize the policy approach to digital currencies and tech innovations more broadly, as part of his modernizing agenda.

“Our goal in this campaign has been and continues to be bringing 21st-century policies to the 21st district. That means we embrace innovation and new technologies like the blockchain and bitcoin.”

While Nelson’s decision to raise donations through bitcoin is still a milestone, he is not the first to accept bitcoin donations in election funding.

Most notably, Senator Rand Paul began accepting donations through bitcoin in the 2016 presidential race, in a move that was widely discussed at the time.