The American public, and the millennial generation in particular, has a general distaste for the billions of dollars spent by organizations to influence government policy and election results. As more and more money finds its way into our political system, however, groups like The Bitcoin Foundation are starting to embrace the necessity to spend money in order to have their voices heard.
In 2012, more than $6.2 billion was spent on all federal elections, according to OpenSecrets.org. This figure includes both the presidential election and congressional elections, so it is understandably higher than the sum for 2010 – $3.6 billion – in which there was only a congressional election. However, the sum total is clearly growing even when only years that include a presidential election are considered. The 2008 elections saw $5.2 billion of spending, the 2004 elections saw $4.1 billion and the 2000 elections saw only $3 billion.
Bitcoiners join the party
While bitcoin has no true centralized body, the Bitcoin Foundation may be the closest thing to a guiding light that the community has.
Hiring lobbyists to represent them may be a smart move for the bitcoin community, which has been facing increasing government scrutiny around the world in recent months. In mid-April, the Bank of China met with banks to reiterate its stance on crypto-currency, leading to a $40 drop in value.
Announcements of varying sentiment in the U.S. have led to a state of uncertainty in the bitcoin community. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Office of Investor Education and Advocacy released an investor report warning consumers about the dangers of investing in bitcoin May 7, but the United States Federal Election Commission voted unanimously a day later to allow in-kind campaign contributions in the crypto-currency.
Neither U.S. announcement seems to have had a substantial effect on bitcoin’s value on the CoinDesk Index.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Foundation announced March 11 that it was hiring Jim Harper, an official at libertarian policy organization the Cato Institute, to “identify political impediments to bitcoin adoption, and build confidence in bitcoin among governments around the world.” It is also hiring Amy Weiss, a former White House deputy press secretary under President Bill Clinton. The two will accept their payment in bitcoin.
Debate in the community
A recent post on Reddit discussed the problems that a number of users had with the use of lobbyists. Some users felt that bitcoin would survive best by turning further in the crypto-punk, anarchist direction from which it came, while others suggested that Washington would be unable to influence bitcoin either way.
Proponents of the use of lobbyists suggested that influence in the government is necessary to ensure that harmful regulations are not enacted against bitcoin. User DunneCapital, claiming to be linked to the UK bitcoin exchange of the same name, noted that MasterCard is investing heavily in lobbyists focused on policy issues related to crypto-currency, a fact that a recent federal lobbying disclosure report supported. Even the most casual user of bitcoin would likely agree that MasterCard’s interests align poorly with bitcoin users’ interests.
Bitcoin users may not be happy about the effect that lobbyists have on the U.S. government, but on the whole, the community seems willing to use them. Whether bitcoin lobbyists are capable of competing with outside interests may be another matter.
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