By Julian Hattem - 01/03/14 11:32 AM EST
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) is accepting bitcoins to support his primary campaign against Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), even though the Federal Election Commission has not approved using the virtual currency for campaigns.
The long-shot candidate entered murky ground with the announcement, though it isn’t likely to incur retaliation from the FEC.
“I really think digital currency is more about freedom, because all the time people are trying to get into your pocket, trying to do different things to control you. And if you have your own wealth, if you control your own wealth, it’s about freedom,” he said. “It’s not about anything other than that, really. Freedom to choose what you do with your money and freedom to keep your money without people influencing it through printing money or regulation.”
Bitcoins only exist on the Internet. They can be exchanged for cash or spent both online and at traditional brick-and-mortar stores for a growing variety of goods and services.
In November, the FEC hit a 3-3 deadlock on a proposal to allow bitcoins to be used as campaign contributions, but just because the FEC hasn’t specifically authorized the contributions doesn’t necessarily mean they are illegal.
If the commission splits on a vote, no final judgment is issued. Since no decision was ever issued on whether campaigns could accept bitcoin contributions, accepting them would not automatically be considered a violation of its rules, according to the commission’s guidelines.
Someone could still file a complaint challenging Stockman’s acceptance of bitcoins, however, but that would have to go before the six commissioners. Given their past split on the issue, it’s not likely to be a slam dunk case.
Proponents of the virtual currency argue it gives them more freedom than traditional forms of money. But bitcoins' relatively anonymous nature has raised concerns that they can also be used to launder money or trade drugs and weapons.