In 2015, Rand Paul became the first major U.S. presidential candidate to accept Bitcoin for campaign donations. Several other candidates for lower office have accepted Bitcoin before and have since, leveraging its ease of use and ability to energize new donor bases.
Cointelegraph spoke to several political candidates about their use of Bitcoin to fund their campaigns.
Financing campaigns with cryptocurrency is still a relatively new concept. Mark Warden, former New Hampshire state representative, was one of the first politicians to employ Bitcoin, using it to help fund his 2010 campaign.
“The designer for my campaign website asked to be paid in Bitcoin and I agreed. He then suggested we accept Bitcoin donations to the campaign. I thought it was a great idea and it was somewhat ground-breaking at the time (2010). I wanted to show support and solidarity for the Bitcoin revolution, which was expanding rapidly. We thought it would help the digi-currency become more mainstream if a State House campaign was adopting it.”
When Andrew Hemingway ran for governor of New Hampshire in 2014, he chose to accept Bitcoin. None of his opponents did the same.
“They tried to criticize me for doing it, claiming that it was fake money etc. I said that fiat was fake. At least Bitcoin has something backing it. They didn't get or appreciate it.”
Donations made easy
Using Bitcoin streamlines the process of receiving donations, both in terms of simplicity and cost-effectiveness. Darryl W. Perry, Libertarian candidate for U.S. president, finds using Bitcoin to be “much faster and easier than processing a credit card.” Caleb Dyer, a New Hampshire candidate for state representative, vastly prefers it to more typical donation forms.
“I am able to have a Bitcoin QR code right on my website on my donations page. People can just scan it and donate. I can just periodically check the wallet I set up and see if anyone's donated. Much easier than sorting through mailed in donations. And it certainly costs less than services like PayPal for taking credit card donations.”
Getting new supporters
Beyond ease of use improvements, accepting Bitcoin for campaign donations can attract donors who might have otherwise not gotten involved. Jim Spillane, state representative from New Hampshire, suspects this might be the case with some of his Bitcoin donors.
“Someone who may not be bothered to donate ordinarily may be willing when they know I'll accept a Bitcoin donation.”
Warden saw many early adopters get involved when he offered Bitcoin as a payment option.
“I wanted to help the Bitcoin universe and many of its early adopters wanted to show their support of my ground-breaking (at the time) public embracing of the currency. I received donations from around the country from people I’d never met, based solely on some Reddit posts that there was a candidate in New Hampshire accepting Bitcoin contributions.”
For his campaign, Dyer received the vast majority of early contributions in Bitcoin, which is highly atypical in his electoral race.
“At the beginning it was 100% because for a while the only donations I had were in Bitcoin. Right now it's at about 70% Bitcoin… I expect most of the donations I will collect to be in Bitcoin.”
Perry decided to completely forego the possibility of receiving government currency. As seen on his campaign website, he accepts Bitcoin, altcoins, and precious metals. He believes the percentage of donations received in Bitcoin to be “probably 90%.”
“I know for a fact that not accepting cash or credit cards has cost me a few donors; not sure how much any of the people saying they won't support me "because..." would have donated if I were accepting traditional funding.”