Bitcoin comes to Capitol

Bitcoins are coming to Capitol Hill.

Robocoin, which makes ATMs for the virtual money, will set up a kiosk in a House office building next week as bitcoin evangelists seek to calm lawmakers' nerves about the upstart money.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a supporter of the online money who has met with the company in the past, is scheduled to deliver remarks at the event, his office confirmed.

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“Come see a Robocoin demo, hear a brief bitcoin talk from Congressman Jared Polis, try buying bitcoin yourself and ask your burning bitcoin questions,” reads an invitation sent to congressional offices. “Welcome to the future of anti-fraud, anti-identify theft and anti-money laundering — this is customer protection built for the 21st century.”

Bitcoins only exist virtually but can be exchanged for cash or spent for goods and services at some retailers. ATMs like Robocoin’s kiosks allow people to access their bitcoins and trade them in for cash in person, instead of over a computer or mobile device.

Supporters say the currency has the potential to revolutionize the way people pay for things and send money in a rapidly globalizing world.

Skeptics of the money note that its relative anonymity and the ease of transactions make it a prime vehicle for money launderers, drug traffickers and terrorists. 

The money has suffered a rash of bad publicity in recent weeks after the collapse of a major Tokyo-based exchange, Mt. Gox, and the arrest of a top bitcoin promoter for conspiring to launder money.

That’s led to a call for regulators to ban the money

Polis fired back with a humorous letter arguing that if the U.S. government were going to ban bitcoin it might as well go ahead and ban cash, which is equally anonymous and “has allowed users to participate in illicit activity” of all types. 

The session in the Rayburn House Office Building is scheduled for next Tuesday afternoon.