In what is becoming an increasingly common strategy for politicians seeking support of the left-leaning Internet community, democratic congressional candidate Christina Gagnier from California’s 35th district (Inland Empire) has decided to accept campaign contributions in bitcoin.
Gagnier tells CoinDesk that the decision was influenced by requests from constituents looking to make virtual currency donations, saying:
My campaign is particularly focused on meeting voters where they are at, whether that’s showing up on their doorstep to see how I can help or accepting a currency like bitcoin as a way to engage someone in the campaign.
She is hardly the first politician to take advantage of the recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) decision to allow political candidates to accept up to $ 100 per donor in bitcoin. Previously, those candidates soliciting bitcoin donations have included incumbent Colorado House Representative Jared Polis already an avid bitcoin supporter within congress), prospective Georgia House Representative Bob Barr, prospective Louisiana House Representative Paul Dietzel, prospective Virginia House Representative Will Hammer, Texas Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, California Lieutenant Governor candidate Gavin Newsom, and Oakland mayoral candidate Bryan Barker.
Unlike most of her fellow politicians accepting bitcoin donations, who used BitPay and its special campaign finance-focused offering, Gagnier has partnered with Coinbase (which it’s worth mentioning is based in California, as opposed to BitPay’s Georgia).
Outside of Polis, who publicly advocated on behalf of bitcoin before the change in FEC regulation, Gagnier’s decision appears among the most authentic. She is a founding partner of the law firm Gagnier Margossian LLP, specializing in technology and Internet law. She is also familiar with the challenges of online anonymity and pseudonymity, having spoken at the 2014 SXSW festival on the topic of revenge porn.
Gagnier is also Internet entrepreneur. Her campaign bio lists her as a founder of online job hunting platform JobScout, where she remains the company’s CEO. Unmentioned on any official campaign materials is that the company is a pivot of Gagnier’s first startup, Trail, which as of last fall aimed to teach digital literacy in underserved communities.
Gagnier too seems to see the virtual currency as more than simply a means of attracting affinity donors, but rather as a path toward improving our banking and finance sectors. She tells CoinDesk:
Technology impacts and will impact every single industry. Having a Congress comprised of individuals from a variety of the backgrounds is the way that we get regulation that makes sense and is practical for various industries…
When each state has their own set of laws dealing with money transmission and now some states seek to independently regulate bitcoin, it can be really confusing to someone who wants to accept or transact with bitcoin. Some federal guidance and a cohesive legal framework would be extremely helpful.
The news has spurred a lively discussion in Bitcoin forums. As one Reddit commentator succinctly explains:
We need more technologically adept representatives who understand the law representing digital currency in Washington. Sadly, some members of congress have trouble with technology and science, so having knowledgeable representatives will be key in getting bills that are digital friendly passed in the house.
Another, however, takes issue with Gagnier’s understanding of the mechanics of Bitcoin, writing in a pair of threaded comments:
The “Issuance” of bitcoin? Sorry lady, we dont issue bitcoins. Nor is there ANY possible way for your state to control the issuance of bitcoins. We’ll go ahead and let the system work the way it works without your unasked for regulation.
The state will not control the issuance of bitcoins. Ever. Any conversation about regulating the ‘issuance’ of bitcoins is clearly a lack of understanding of the technology, which for someone who is a founding partner of a tech-focused legal firm, she should know better and clearly does not.
The slapstick Buttcoin blog, unsurprisingly, takes a similarly cynical view, naming a discussion thread on today’s news, “Political candidate takes advantage of teenage hormones in latest ‘donation drive.’” And several commenters, in both forums, seemingly couldn’t get past the fact that Gagnier is indeed quite attractive, offering little more than sophomoric remarks varying on how much she “has their vote.”
Given the limits imposed by the FEC, it’s unlikely that we’ll see virtual currency fundraising replace traditional methods for politicians any time soon. But Gagnier, like Polis before her, demonstrates that it doesn’t always have to be a PR ploy either. This is the latest example of a savvy candidate in a state that is heavily invested in bitcoin’s success, listening to her constituency. Whether she has the political chops to represent the state in Congress is an other question entirely.