Colo. Dem lawmaker buys bitcoin

Anne Wernikoff

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) likely became the first member of Congress to own bitcoin on Tuesday.

At a Capitol Hill event featuring an ATM kiosk made by the bitcoin company Robocoin, Polis traded in 10 dollars for .02 of the digital money, in an attempt to convince his colleagues that bitcoin is as safe as U.S. greenbacks. 

Skepticism among his fellow lawmakers about the virtual currency was due to “a lack of understanding," he said.

“When people don’t understand something, there’s a natural tendency to fear it to try to preserve the status quo, and I expect those forces to continue to rear those heads, particularly with inevitable consumer loss and criminal activities that occur with any currency."

With his new bitcoin, Polis said he would consider buying a pair of alpaca socks, a traditional purchase for bitcoin evangelists.

Critics have raised concerns over the possibility for bitcoins to be used in money laundering schemes and because of the rapid price volatility they have experienced. Earlier this year, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) called for regulators to ban it to prevent it from “harming hard-working Americans.”

However, supporters like Polis say the technology behind the currency, which only exists online but can be traded for cash or spent for some goods and services, has the potential to revolutionize the way people spend money.

“Bitcoin and online currencies offer the opportunity to reduce transaction costs, allow for international commerce without having to convert currencies and also allow people to be banked or have access to remittances or banking services” without large fees, he said.  

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) attended the event in the Rayburn House Office Building and expressed an interest in the money, though he declined to say if his committee would take action any time soon.

“I’m not sure what our jurisdictional interest would be, but I am personally very interested in following all the developments with it,” Goodlatte said.

Will he be following Polis’s lead and buying bitcoins any time soon?

“I may,” he said.