Political Group Launches ‘ICO’ to Support US House Candidate
A political action committee (PAC) wants to conduct an initial coin offering (ICO) to support candidates for public office.
“BitPAC has its own funds but we’re also doing an initial coin offering,” said Dan Backer, the group’s founder. “Anyone who donates to [the PAC] as of [Friday] can get one politicoin.”
There’s no value associated with BitPAC’s politicoin, Backer explained, but the goal is to ultimately grant some sort of voting right to token holders. This is further “down the road,” he said.
Backer went on to say:
“It’s a utility token, not a thing of value. I don’t care if people want to buy, sell trade their token, if an exchange wants to list it that’s [fantastic]. We have some larger scale, grand or long-term plans but we have to start [somewhere].”
BitPAC’s initial aim is to support a single candidate: Dan Bishop, a North Carolina state senator running for the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election.
Bishop is perhaps best known for sponsoring North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill.”
However, Backer envisions a future platform where voters can show support for any candidate – both Republicans and Democrats – provided they’re registered with the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC).
“I think it’s important we demonstrate there’s a level of political maturity here,” he said, adding:
“I think it’s going to be interesting to see. Win or lose, we’re going to learn a lot about this process.”
BitPAC was initially launched in 2014 as an entity looking to determine how political candidates could accept donations made in bitcoin.
At the time, it was unclear how bitcoin could be used for political donations, Backer said.
In 2014, BitPAC sent eight politicians paper wallets with bitcoin, hoping that the recipients would ask the FEC for clarity on how to report these donations.
The recipients included Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), as well as Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and former Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).
However, the recipients did not ask the FEC what to do with the wallets, and the PAC was terminated in 2018. Backer said he revived the PAC after realizing that it is still unclear how cryptocurrency donations can be reported.
“Really on a whim I happened to look at one of the candidates,” Backer said of his PAC’s revival, adding:
“I looked at all of the candidates we gave the cryptocurrency to, not one reported, I think one reported but didn’t cash it.”
More than that, though, Backer says BitPAC is trying to support candidates who support the cryptocurrency space.
“We target people based on what they care about, what motivates them,” he explained. “Our focus has always been smart politics.”
North Carolina’s 9th
BitPAC is supporting Bishop in this year’s special election due to his past work supporting the industry, Backer said.
“Bishop is demonstrably in support of crypto, so it’s worth getting behind him. We’re not going to have to guess where he is on the issue,” he said.
Bishop supported a North Carolina bill updating its money transmitter law to better account for virtual currency businesses. Former Coinbase chief policy officer Mike Lempres thanked Bishop in a blog post applauding the passage of the bill.
Backer explained that Bishop’s past work in the crypto space was an opportunity to elect a “pro-crypto” Congressman.
“If you want to support cryptocurrency, you’re not going to do it educating the electorate on cryptocurrency,” he said. “They care about what they care about.”
That being said, he doesn’t foresee BitPAC supporting any specific candidates in the future. He also said the PAC right now is not coordinating with Bishop’s campaign, though it is working to motivate “mid-propensity voters” to vote for him.
These are 6,000 Republican voters in North Carolina’s 9th district who typically would not turn out for a special election, Backer said, adding:
“The outcome is voters get a candidate they like and want and we get a candidate who understands the importance of cryptocurrency and will be an advocate for cryptocurrency in Congress.”
After the election ends on Sept. 10, Backer will try to speak to Bishop, he said.
There is a prevailing irony, however: Voters can donate cash but anyone who wishes to donate cryptocurrency has to contact Backer or another member of his team to do so.
He says that’s due to FEC reporting requirements.
“The issue is integrating the acceptance of cryptocurrency with FEC reporting requirements,” he said of BitPAC’s primary goal. He could accept bitcoin, ether and a number of other cryptocurrencies, Backer said, “as long as we’re able to identify the contributors and perform the compliance function with respect to FEC reporting requirements.”
According to FEC filings, BitPAC raised nearly $22,000 in the first half of 2019, on top of nearly $40,000 already in hand.
Dan Backer image via John Boal/Political.law