Presidential fund-raising, never known for its transparency, may have just become even more secretive. In announcing his candidacy for president this week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky waded into new waters when he said he would accept campaign contributions in Bitcoins, a largely untraceable virtual currency, in amounts up to $100. Interested donors at randpaul.com were given three options for making a contribution: a credit card, PayPal or Bitcoins. While some state and federal candidates in California, Colorado, New Hampshire and elsewhere have started accepting Bitcoins, Mr. Paul, a Republican, is the first presidential candidate to do so.
The novelty of the payment method is likely to help Mr. Paul highlight his edgy appeal to other libertarians, tech-savvy voters, young people and others who favor Bitcoins. But it also raises questions about whether illegal contributions could make their way into campaigns more easily.
The Bitcoin itself is essentially untraceable if the owner wants to maintain anonymity, and political candidates who accept them must rely largely on donors’ disclosing their identity.