Oct. 26, 2018: This story has been corrected.
This story was co-published by Politico Magazine.
Democrat Brian Forde raised nearly half a million dollars of bitcoin for his unsuccessful bid for a California congressional seat this year, but then had to field questions from election watchdogs about a contribution from Hong Kong.
Republican Austin Petersen, a U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri, received the largest single bitcoin donation in federal election history, but was forced to return the virtual currency in June because it exceeded federal contribution limits.
Libertarian Phil Anderson, who's running for governor in Wisconsin, decided to continue accepting crypto contributions even though Wisconsin, like most states, has not decided how to regulate or track crypto contributions.
In an era of Russian hackers, super PACs and shell corporations being used by foreign entities to influence voting, officials tasked with maintaining the integrity of state and local elections have one more thing to worry about: crypto-candidates.
The Center for Public Integrity found 20 crypto-candidates of various political stripes, seeking all levels of office, who have been requesting or have received cryptocurrency to fund their efforts. At least three were candidates in a state that has since banned such donations. Another was accepting cryptocurrencies marketed as untraceable. The confusion over campaign cryptocurrency is widespread, and the implications are far from isolated. But the effort to establish uniform rules is lagging behind.
“Cryptocurrency is like the wild west in terms of regulation,” said Joseph Argiro, a cryptocurrency analyst with ICO Alert, which maintains a comprehensive list of cryptocurrencies. “This is the new way of raising money. It’s no surprise that politicians are jumping on board.”