When he ran for a seat on the Town Board of Stillwater, New York, in 2015, Democrat Patrick Nelson was a trailblazer for accepting campaign contributions in bitcoin. Yesterday, Nelson’s press secretary announced that the candidate would once again accept cryptocurrency campaign contributions, this time, in his bid for a seat in the House of Representatives.
ETHNews spoke with Nelson who identified himself as a “supporter of bitcoin.” The congressional hopeful praised cryptocurrency, which he said can “democratize financial power.” Although traditional financial instruments sold on Wall Street are wonderful for New York’s tax revenue, he explained, blockchain-based products may offer significant savings in transaction fees. Nelson was also familiar with Ethereum, smart contracts (EDCCs), and colored coins.
Although Nelson previously used Coinbase, his campaign now accepts donations through BitPay. Ongoing litigation between Coinbase and the IRS had no bearing on this decision, he said. BitPay just has better features, which made the platform easier to use. As this is the first week that the campaign is accepting virtual currency donations, Nelson did not yet have a tally of cryptocurrency contributions received.
Nonetheless, Nelson was well-versed in the Federal Election Commission’s requirements for accepting and reporting bitcoin contributions. Nelson stated that he will liquidate cryptocurrency campaign contributions within 10 days. While the campaign could hold digital assets for a longer period of time, any gains would be subject to taxation – and the reporting procedures would be more complicated.
A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a B.S. in biochemistry and biophysics, Nelson possesses a keen scientific background that obviously informs his knowledge of blockchain technology. Although he’s just 27 years old, his thoughtful manner gives the impression that he is a much wiser and more experienced gentleman. This seems appropriate since the demography of New York’s 21st Congressional District, which is in the northernmost part of the state next to Vermont, skews slightly older than the national median.
Today, the congressional district still yearns for basic technology infrastructure. Many homes just need broadband, said Nelson, and there are large swathes of the population that lack simple cellular coverage. Nelson’s personal connections to the region (his family ties and education) and his knowledge of the needs of the population make him well-suited for the office, and his goal of improving “scientific literacy” is admirable.
As he seeks to bring “Twenty-First Century Policies for New York’s Twenty-First Congressional District,” Nelson is emblematic of a larger political trend. Recently, Democrat Brian Forde also announced his candidacy for Congress in California’s 45th Congressional District. Forde is the former director of digital currency at MIT’s Media Lab. He also served as a White House senior advisor for mobile and data innovation during the Obama administration.
Considering the ascendency of virtual currency, it’s crucial for politicians to be aware and knowledgeable of the emerging technology. Candidates like Brian Forde and Patrick Nelson are getting ready to make their mark. As Nelson put it, right now, “there’s too much politics in science, but not enough science in politics.”