The Federal Election Commission on Thursday gave a green light to donating bitcoins to political committees, one of the first rulings by a government agency on how to treat the virtual currency. In a 6-to-0 vote, the panel said that a PAC can accept bitcoin donations, as well as purchase them, but it must sell its bitcoins and convert them into U.S. dollars before they are deposited into an official campaign account. The commission did not approve the use of bitcoin to acquire goods and services. After the vote, however, individual commissioners offered sharply divergent views on whether their decision limits bitcoin donations to small amounts — creating more uncertainty about how much of the Internet currency that political committees can accept. The FEC had deadlocked on a similar question in the fall, with the three Democratic appointees saying they wanted the agency to take more time to study the issue and develop a formal policy to govern the use of bitcoins in campaigns. At the time, some commissioners expressed concern that the virtual currency could be used to mask the identity of donors.
On Thursday, the panel’s vote was swift. The decision came in the form of guidance to Make Your Laws PAC, not an official rule or regulation. But it opens the door to the use of bitcoins by any federal political committee.
In its advisory opinion request, the Make Your Laws PAC said it is seeking to accept bitcoin donations in increments up to $100.
That low sum assuaged the concerns of several commissioners about the risks of the virtual currency, said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic appointee.