Bitcoin gaining currency on K Street

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Bitcoin supporters are hiring up in Washington as lawmakers and regulators debate how to handle the digital currency.

The Bitcoin Foundation on Wednesday announced it had contracted with the bipartisan lobby firm Thorsen French Advocacy to provide representation on Capitol Hill.

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“When governments are properly informed about bitcoin’s promise, the technology’s social and economic benefits are recognized and its rapid innovation and adoption will increase,” said Jon Matonis, the executive director for the advocacy group, in a statement.

The foundation has been around since September 2012, but has not employed lobbyists until now.

Lobbyists Alec French, a former House Judiciary Committee counsel to Democrats, and Carl Thorsen, a former Republican leadership aide, will be introducing members of the Bitcoin Foundation to members of Congress and staff to talk about the “benefits that bitcoin offers for global financial inclusion, consumer privacy, monetary stability and human liberty,” according to a statement.

“The lawmakers and regulators who have studied Bitcoin take the sensible position that government should seek its benefits and mitigate its risks,” said Jim Harper, the Bitcoin Foundation’s global policy counsel. “We’re carrying this message to Capitol Hill so the Bitcoin community can focus on building tools and services that enrich and improve people’s lives around the world.”

Other groups interested in the digital currency have also turned to K Street for help in recent months.

The bitcoin investment firm Falcon Global Capital, for example, registered both an in-house lobbyist and an outside firm to represent its interests to policymakers this year.

In addition, Peck Madigan Jones, which represents MasterCard, mentioned working on or monitoring bitcoin policy issues for the credit card company in reports covering the first three months of the year.

The financial industry and other established players haven't decided whether to embrace or reject bitcoin, and some lawmakers also remain wary. Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged two bitcoin companies with operating illegally after they failed to register with regulators, as required by law.

Thorsen French Advocacy made about $3 million in lobbying revenues last year and has a diverse client roster, including the Beer Institute, Human Rights Campaign, Comcast, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, among others.

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