- Donation processors like Democrats’ ActBlue and Republicans’ WinRed don’t accept cryptocurrency.
- Some campaigns want that to change so they can have a single platform for all donors.
- “There is a big demand for it,” one candidate said.
Cryptocurrency enthusiasts who are running for Congress want an easy way for donors to line their campaign coffers with bitcoin and altcoins.
Leading platforms for political-payment processing, including Democrats’ ActBlue and Republicans’ WinRed, don’t accept cryptocurrency. Some campaigns want that to change, and soon.
Campaign staffers for Republican Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina would prefer a single platform for both traditional contributions via bank drafts or credit cards and crypto contributions, “instead of branching donors off onto different places depending on their preference,” Austin Livingston, a spokesperson for Norman’s campaign, wrote in an email.
Matthew Diemer, a Democratic congressional candidate from Ohio, in September tweeted that his team had been asking ActBlue since April to accept cryptocurrency. He included a screenshot of a note from ActBlue that said the platform “will not be able to build that capacity in the near future.”
An ActBlue representative emailed him in response to the tweet to say she’d pass along his feedback.
“There is a big demand for it,” he told ActBlue in an email he shared with Insider. “I would love to have a one stop solution.”
The payment-processing hurdle has dissuaded some candidates from accepting cryptocurrency, with only a smattering of political candidates and committees making the effort.
Asked whether she accepted bitcoin, then-congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in December 2017 tweeted: “Not till ActBlue does! Also I’m not sure about FEC laws regarding crypto.”
Ocasio-Cortez, now a Democratic representative from New York, uses ActBlue for donations.
Candidates such as Diemer are moving forward with cryptocurrency donations, using two payment-service providers on their campaign websites — one for traditional contributions and another for bitcoin.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the first major national party committee to accept cryptocurrency donations, uses both WinRed and BitPay — the latter is a service that converts crypto contributions into dollars before they land in a political committee’s campaign account.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declined to comment on ActBlue. The NRCC did not respond to a request for comment about whether WinRed should accept cryptocurrency.
An ActBlue representative declined to comment for this story. Representatives for WinRed and Anedot, another Republican-focused payment processor that doesn’t yet accept political contributions in cryptocurrency, did not respond to requests for comment.
Change for 2022?
“As crypto becomes more of a norm, then all these platforms — WinRed, Anedot, ActBlue — will all make adjustments to make cryptocurrency acceptable on their platforms, but the moment is not there yet,” said a senior Republican aide who is familiar with political cryptocurrency donations but spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the press.
NGP VAN, which provides payment-processing services to Democratic political committees, announced in 2014 it would create a bitcoin payment option for clients, but it didn’t widely catch on among politicos.
In Congress, members of the “Blockchain Caucus” from across the political spectrum promote a “hands-off regulatory approach” to blockchain technology, which is used by digital currencies.
A few members of this caucus — including Rep. Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican who cochairs the caucus and leads the NRCC, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat — accept cryptocurrency contributions through their campaign committees.
Aarika Rhodes, a Democratic congressional candidate in California, told Insider that the cryptocurrency community gave her campaign a “really big boost” in donations when she added a way to donate on her website.
It would be lucrative for ActBlue to accept bitcoin donations, since they get a percentage, and it would be easier for candidates to have all of their donations in one spot, said Rhodes, an elementary-school teacher who is challenging Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman in a primary. She expects more candidates to warm up to bitcoin in 2024.
“Campaigning through different sources is advantageous for candidates, and I think it’s more innovative and it’s the future,” she said.
Diemer said his campaign was accepting cryptocurrency donations to support the crypto community, crypto technology, and innovation in general. He wants ActBlue to accept cryptocurrency so “people can go to one link and donate the way that they want to donate,” he said.
Norman, a cryptocurrency supporter, is not yet accepting crypto contributions, and his campaign hasn’t made any requests concerning crypto to WinRed. Livingston said he didn’t know of any of his donors who’d asked to contribute in that way.
“But it’s definitely something we’re keeping an eye on, especially since crypto currencies are gaining more traction,” he wrote in an email.
Norman ultimately wants to comply with reporting requirements and have his donors to be able to contribute in whatever way suits them. Unless WinRed can incorporate crypto into its platform, Norman’s campaign probably won’t pursue cryptocurrency donations in 2022. It’s more likely in 2024 if he decides to run again, Livingston said.
“It probably won’t be too much longer before his donors do begin making the request for crypto,” Livingston said. “So on the staff level, our hope is that crypto can eventually be incorporated into the WinRed platform, which Rep. Norman’s campaign already uses.”
C. Ryan Barber contributed to this story.