It is no news by now that the long-awaited Mueller Report has revealed extensive Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. While much attention has been focused on whether or not president Donald Trump was in any way complicit with these efforts, what is less reported is that the report showed that state-backed Russian operatives used bitcoin extensively in their attempts to impede Hilary Clinton and help Donald Trump’s campaign. According to the report, agents working on behalf of Russian military intelligence used bitcoin to do everything from purchasing VPNs to buying domains hosting political propaganda. This was part of a wide-reaching and apparently successful attempt to hack the 2016 election that saw Trump emerge victorious against all expectations. While this may not be news to anyone familiar with cryptocurrencies, the Russian agents apparently worked under the mistaken assumption that the mere fact of their transactions being carried out using cryptocurrency made them anonymous and untraceable. In fact, as has been demonstrated several times, bitcoin transactions are not that difficult to trace, given the presence of some key data.
A new Australian political party is using the virtual currency bitcoin as a model to replace what they say is an outdated political system – representative democracy – with a streamlined new polity for the information age. The Flux Party says its goal is to elect six senators. They will propose no policies and will not follow their consciences, but will support or block legislation at the direction of their members, who can swap or trade their votes on every bill online. “If they didn’t have to be senators, if they could just be software or robots they would be, because their only purpose is to do what the people want them to do,” Flux Party co-founder Max Kaye told Reuters in an interview. Australia is set to hold an election in September or October after a period of turmoil that brought five prime ministers in as many years.
America’s voting machines are archaic and rundown, a recent study showed, and security experts have warned that voter machines are vulnerable to hacking. Enter Blockchain Technologies Corp, a company that hopes to replace existing proprietary machines with secure, open-source voting machines that use the blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin. … Advocates say blockchain-based elections are transparent and secure. They’ve been tested by the Liberal Alliance in Denmark and the European Pirate Party. And now, Blockchain Technologies Corp. is developing an actual voting machine that will record votes using a blockchain. … However, there’s only so much that blockchain technology can do. “Blockchain technology can provide untamperable audit trails, but it doesn’t solve the hard problem that erroneous or malicious software in the voting machine may cast votes other than how the voter intended, and the voter will never be able to know,” explains Jeremy Epstein, senior computer scientist at SRI International who actively warned about the security of Virginia’s machines.
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 Federal Election Commission voted earlier this year to allow political candidates and committees to accept donations in bitcoin. But a week before Election Day, candidates who accept the popular virtual currency reported that their total bitcoin donations were small to nonexistent, though they remained optimistic about the currency’s political future. Candidates who have entered the Wild West frontier of accepting bitcoin donations said they have been unable to turn bitcoin into a major fundraising strategy — yet. Blaine Richardson, an independent House candidate running in Maine’s 2nd District, reported that he didn’t get any bitcoin contributions at all. “I think there is a future for it, but we just may be ahead of the curve right now,” he told The Huffington Post.
Bitcoin, the alternative to currency taking the Internet by storm, now may move to another mission. Some advocates want to translate the technology into online voting. Advocates promise a utopian voting scheme driven by smartphones and apps that can overcome all the inherent vulnerabilities to classic e-voting thanks to Bitcoin’s un-hackable code. But the reality is that total security and anonymity online is a virtual impossibility (pun intended) – and both are absolutely crucial to a fair and reliable election. Bitcoin might be the world’s first viable digital currency; it exists entirely in electronic form, and is regulated by a market of online buyers and sellers, rather than a nation and a central bank. As a currency, it is an intriguing experiment. As the foundation of a democratic election, it quickly loses its luster.
In the digital age, it seems strange that people all around the world still use paper to vote. Of course, given bitcoin’s promise to remove paper from the financial system, many in the industry are beginning to ask if the same block chain technology can be applied to help modernize the democratic process. … Forget it, says Barbara Simons. “At this point we cannot do Internet voting securely,” warns the former IBM computer scientist who has conducted extensive research into Internet voting. Readers will point out that Internet voting is already happening, but she’s saying that we cannot guarantee its integrity. Simons, a former president of the Association for Computing Machinery, participated in a National Workshop on Internet Voting commissioned by former US President Bill Clinton, and authored a book, ‘Broken Ballots‘. She is a long-standing critic of online voting, and her research caused the US Department of Defense to nix an Internet voting system it was considering. “A lot of people think ‘I can bank online, so why can’t I vote online?’,” says Simons. “But, millions disappear from online bank accounts each year.”
Candidates testing the waters of bitcoin fundraising are following different sets of rules as they go along, a function of both the freewheeling culture of the digital currency world and of mixed signals from the Federal Election Commission. The FEC approved bitcoin fundraising in a unanimous advisory opinion on May 8, but the agency’s six commissioners immediately began a public dispute over what that decision actually means. At issue is whether digital currency contributions must be capped at $100 per election per donor, or whether candidates, political action committees and parties may accept the virtual currency in larger amounts. The commission’s three Democrats maintain that they approved of bitcoin fundraising only to the $100 cap, and in a statement cited “serious concerns” about the potential difficulty verifying virtual transactions. But the commission’s GOP chairman, Lee E. Goodman, countered in his own statement that bitcoins are in-kind donations, and must therefore be capped only at existing contribution limits — $2,600 for a candidate and $5,000 for a PAC per election. “Innovation and technology should not and will not stand idly by while the commission dithers,” he declared.
The U.S. Federal Election Commission has taken a leap into the Digital Age, approving the use of the virtual currency Bitcoin to make financial contributions to political candidates. The FEC’s move comes as several candidates running in this year’s midterm elections have started accepting Bitcoin contributions. In an opinion issued earlier this month, the agency’s six commissioners unanimously adopted guidelines proposed by the Make Your Laws political action committee. The Federal Election Campaign Act defines a “contribution” as “any gift … of money or anything of value,” and, the commission concluded, Bitcoins “are ‘money or anything of value’ within the meaning of the Act.” Under Make Your Laws’ guidelines, contributions will be limited to $100 per donor per election cycle and, to promote transparency, an individual must provide identifying information, including name, physical address and employer, in order to make a contribution.
National: Federal Election Commission approves bitcoin donations to political committees | Washington Post
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.
Bitcoin and politics. They may soon go hand-in-hand. Financially speaking, of course. The Federal Election Commission will reportedly consider a request on Wednesday to officially allow political campaigns to accept bitcoin donations in the mid-term elections coming up. The news comes as bitcoin continues its rapid growth and more organizations are embracing the digital currency, which allows for easy transactions less hefty fees charged by traditional card processors. A non-partisan political group by the name of Make Your Laws made the request, which they’re hoping will be approved. Make Your Laws is launching soon, and seeks to use technology to empower citizens when it comes to elections and democracy.
At today’s public meeting, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked on two advisory opinion requests and approved a third. Both deadlocked votes split along party lines between the Democratic- and Republican-selected Commissioners. The Commission first considered a request from the Conservative Action Fund PAC that was held over from last week’s meeting. The request asked whether and how political committees may accept contributions in the form of Bitcoins. While the Commissioners all agreed that committees may accept Bitcoin contributions, they were divided on whether committees could spend Bitcoins, and what steps must be taken to receive and report them. The three Republican-selected Commissioners all voted for a draft opinion that would have allowed political committees not only to accept Bitcoins as in-kind contributions, but also to use them to purchase goods and services and make contributions to other committees. However, the three Democratic-selected Commissioners argued that the Commission should take more time to understand the technology of Bitcoin and issue guidance through a policy statement or interpretive rule. All six Commissioners seemed open to considering such a rule in the future.
Bitcoin, the virtual currency that exists as alphanumeric strings online, is on the verge of getting into politics. The Federal Election Commission is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal to allow bitcoin contributions to political action committees — even as skeptics say that bitcoins could undermine the disclosure standards of federal law. The FEC is acting as other federal agencies are also exploring the uses, and dangers, of digital currency. At a Senate hearing on Monday, federal law enforcement officials cited Silk Road, an online illegal marketplace that used bitcoin before it was shut down. Edward Lowery III, chief of the Secret Service Criminal Investigative Division, told the panel: “While digital currencies may provide potential benefits, they present real risks through their use by the criminal and terrorist organizations trying to conceal their illicit activity.” Still, no one at the Senate hearing wanted to stifle virtual currency, and neither does the FEC. The commission was brought into the issue by the Conservative Action Fund, a political action committee that is seeking approval to accept bitcoins as contributions.
The digital currency Bitcoin is perhaps best known for its use in buying illegal drugs from online stores like the now-defunct Silk Road. An upcoming Federal Election Commission ruling will expand what you can buy with bitcoins into a strictly legal realm: purchasing politicians. The FEC is set to approve an advisory opinion this week allowing federal political campaigns to accept contributions in bitcoins. The agency will treat bitcoins the same way it treats donations of stock, as an in-kind gift worth the amount at which it was valued at the time of contribution. Bitcoins were valued at about $376 each (as of this writing), and the maximum contribution an individual may make to one campaign is $2,600 per election. The advisory opinion comes in response to the Conservative Action Fund, whose request was filed by conservative election lawyer Dan Backer. He is the force behind a number of recent deregulatory advisory opinion requests and court challenges, including the initial FEC filing that led to the pending Supreme Court case McCutcheon v. FEC. Backer asked the FEC whether the Conservative Action Fund could accept bitcoins as contributions as well as use bitcoins to pay expenses and to make contributions to other candidates.
Will digital dollars soon fund U.S. political campaigns? If a conservative political action committee has its way, supporters will be able to donate to federal elections using bitcoins, a relatively new form of virtual currency. The Conservative Action Fund PAC this week asked the Federal Election Commission to approve rules governing the use of this online form of currency. The move seeks to push the technology envelope for federal regulators who just last year endorsed political donations via text message for the first time. The FEC has 60 days to respond to requests such as these but can extend the amount of time it takes to consider the matter. “As bitcoins become a bigger part of the economy, we see a future in this … particularly among libertarian-minded voters,” said Dan Backer, the Conservative Action Fund lawyer who filed the FEC request.
Coming soon to a political campaign near you: Bitcoin donations? The Federal Election Commission is poised to determine rules governing donations made in Bitcoins and how they apply to political campaigns. Attorneys for Conservative Action Fund PAC asked the agency decide if political candidates and outside groups are allowed to accept the digital currency, in addition to U.S. dollars. “As increasing numbers of individuals trade in Bitcoin, political parties and candidates also wish to accept and spend this new currency,” Dan Backer of DB Capitol Strategies wrote in the request. The request lays out 24 technical questions for the FEC regarding the use of Bitcoin as political contributions. Backer told POLITICO that he expects that by 2014, many federal candidates will be interested in accepting the currency — and that many donors will demand it. “We see a real future for this, especially among libertarian-minded supporters,” Backer said.