North Carolina News

NC candidate says state should prepare for bitcoin campaign donations

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - A North Carolina political candidate says the state should prepare for people to make political donations through Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, despite state officials telling him that’s currently not allowed.

“I don’t want to see us get to that standpoint in government, just because something is new or just because something is challenging, that we’re not going to do this,” said Emmanuel Wilder, a Republican running to represent the 41st district in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

He’s facing off against incumbent Rep. Gale Adcock (D) and libertarian candidate Liam Leaver.

Wilder asked the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to weigh in on the issue after hearing from people in the community interested in donating using Bitcoin.

“One of the things I did hear from the community is they’re ready,” he said.

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The Federal Election Commission allows federal candidates to receive Bitcoin as a contribution. That currency in particular gained a lot of attention when last year it’s value surged. At one point in Dec. 2017, one Bitcoin was worth about $20,000. On Aug. 2, it was valued at about $7,600.

Kim Westrbook Strach, the executive director of the state board, recently wrote an opinion on the issue in response to Wilder’s request.

She said the state doesn’t allow cryptocurrencies to be used to make political donations in North Carolina.

She raised concerns about the instability of cryptocurrency exchanges.

She wrote, “Given that lack of certainty, we do not have confidence that we could adequately regulate contributions to a political campaign in North Carolina in the form of cryptocurrency.”

Wilder believes it’s time to start preparing for that to happen.

“We already see the blockchain interrupting various sectors from donations all the way to how you get mortgage loans,” he said.

Bob Phillips, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause North Carolina, said the issue raises questions about being able to ensure transparency in campaign donations.

“The technology has leaped ahead of what the laws are here,” he said. “Everybody would want to know where the money’s coming from, have full sunshine on this.”

Wilder acknowledged the challenges in ensuring that.

“I think there’s still maturing that the platform has to do,” Wilder said. “We, to a degree, also see this classifying in almost the same way you see cash. Someone can give a candidate cash and just say who they are. You can take steps to try to validate it, but it’s not 100 percent.”

Phillips encouraged the state legislature to take up the issue during next year’s legislative session.

To read the letter Wilder received from the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, click here.  


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