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Rep. Jared Polis talks with two stranded people who were rescued after being spotted by a National Guard helicopter pilot along the Big Thompson River in northern Colorado during an overflight of the flooded areas in this Sept. 14, 2013 handout photo. (REUTERS/U.S. Air National Guard/Capt. Darin Overstreet/Handout via Reuters) Rep. Jared Polis talks with two stranded people who were rescued after being spotted by a National Guard helicopter pilot along the Big Thompson River in northern Colorado during an overflight of the flooded areas in this Sept. 14, 2013 handout photo. (REUTERS/U.S. Air National Guard/Capt. Darin Overstreet/Handout via Reuters)  

Jared Polis Now Taking Bitcoin For Campaign Contributions

Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, who recently wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter urging Congress to ban the dollar bill, will be one of the first U.S. candidates to accept bitcoin as a campaign contribution.

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday voted to allow the digital currency to be donated to political committees, and Polis — a longtime proponent of bitcoin — quickly set up a portal for supporters to donate them.

“I am thrilled that the FEC has chosen to take a forward looking stance on digital currencies, recognizing the rights of individuals seeking alternatives to government backed currencies to participate in our democratic political process,” said Polis, in a statement reported on NewsBTC, a Bitcoin news service.

“Bitcoin, and other digital currencies, are just beginning to show the world what a tremendous tool they can be,” he said, “whether it is reducing transaction costs in developing nations, giving people more options for engaging in commerce, or sending Representatives dedicated to advancing personal freedom to Congress.”

In February, Democratic  West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin urged a U.S. ban on bitcoin because it is “disruptive to our economy.”

“The clear ends of Bitcoin [sic] for either transacting in illegal goods and services or speculative gambling make me wary of its use,” Manchin wrote in a letter to currency regulators. “I urge the regulators to work together, act quickly, and prohibit this dangerous currency from harming hard-working Americans.”

Polis fired back with a letter of his own, pointing out that the dollar bill is equally — if not more — guilty of being used in crime.

“Printed pieces of paper can fit in a person’s pocket and can be given to another person without any government oversight,” he wrote. “The very features of dollar bills, such as anonymous transactions, have created ubiquitous uses from drug purchases to hit men to prostitutes, as dollar bills are attractive to criminals who are able to disguise their actions from law enforcement.”

He also argued that digital currencies are carbon neutral and better for the environment.

“[E]ach dollar bill is manufactured from virgin materials like cotton and linen, which go through extensive treatment and processing,” he wrote. “Certainly this cannot be the greenest currency.”

The FEC voted unanimously to allow bitcoin be donated to political committees, but stipulated that it must be converted into U.S. dollars before being deposited into campaign accounts. The ruling came in the form of guidance to a political action committee seeking bitcoin donations equivalent to no more than $100. The low amount helped dismiss FEC commissioners concerns about the precedent, according to the Washington Post.

The $100 limit was really important to us,” Commissioner Ellen Weintraub is quoted as saying. “We have to balance a desire to accommodate innovation, which is a good thing, with a concern that we continue to protect transparency in the system and ensure that foreign money doesn’t seep in.”

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