Congressional Bitcoin Education Day: I Tried To Teach Congress About Bitcoin
Congressional Bitcoin Education Day was this past Friday in Washington D.C. but the important question needs to be asked, did it accomplish anything?
Note: Some minor corrections were made to this article shortly after publishing, further clarifying that the volunteers were not lobbying Congressional Members.
The newly established Chamber of Digital Commerce descended on Washington D.C. on Friday with volunteers coming in from as far away as Texas and Florida. They handed out information to every Congressional Office on the hill, making sure that every member of Congress at least has had the opportunity to learn about Bitcoin and digital currencies.
Full Disclosure: I attended the event as a participant. With 535 voting members of Congress, there was a lot of ground to cover. Besides, as a journalist, I figured it was important to see first hand how much the staff of the people who will one day be deciding Bitcoin's regulatory fate know about the digital currency. Important enough to outweigh fears of becoming biased for the purposes of this article.
It was the first annual Congressional Bitcoin Education Day and essentially The Chamber's first tangible public act. Regardless of your feelings on if Bitcoin and regulation can coexist, everyone agrees that it is better to have a Congress educated about Bitcoin than the alternative. Which was the Chamber's stated mission: to educate Congress.
They stressed that very strongly. The volunteers were not registered lobbyists and it is very important to point out were not lobbying. We were not legally allowed to push a specific agenda. Instead, we were instructed to simply educate the staff of Congressional leaders on Bitcoin technology.
Which is another important point. Congress was, and remains in, recess, Bitcoin Education Day took place on the Friday before Labor day. There were very few actual members of Congress on the Hill on this particular day. There is a silver lining to that, it is the staff that does most of the research for their bosses, and establishing the Chamber as a source of information, as opposed to someone less favorable to Bitcoin that may get into their ears.
In all, 70 official meetings were taken with Congressional Members or their staff (almost entirely their staff), while every remaining member of Congress received a flier with basic information about Bitcoin's potential economic impact.
- "Uscapitolindaylight" by Kmccoy - en.wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Still, it is hard to argue with the logic that going on the Hill when Congress was around would have enabled us to speak to both the staffers and the members of Congress interested enough to want to talk to us.
The event was attended by one national politician, Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) who is also the politician pushing for Bitcoin to be recognized as a currency in his state, contributed to the event. Without his help, the Chamber would not have been able to get access to a room in the Rayburn House Office Building which acted as a sort of home base for the volunteers and interns.
Two of the three staffers I talked to se