The FEC says mining pools can 'volunteer' for political campaigns, should they?

20 Nov, 2018
by Arthur Sillers
News
The FEC says mining pools can 'volunteer' for political campaigns, should they?

The Federal Election Committee has released a memo specifying the way and to what extent mining pools can contribute to political campaigns in response to a request from OsiaNetwork, a start up which is attempting to offer customers a way to pool unused processing power to mine cryptocurrency for the political contributions of their choice.

The Federal Election Committee has released a memo specifying the way and to what extent mining pools can contribute to political campaigns in response to a request from OsiaNetwork, a start up which is attempting to offer customers a way to pool unused processing power to mine cryptocurrency for the political contributions of their choice. The FEC’s memo, a response to a request for clarification on election contribution rules from the start up, notes that while the scheme envisioned by OsiaNetwork is legal, they will constitute contributions from OsiaNetwork itself, which as an LLC, is limited to $5,000 a year. Presumably, this means that OsiaNetwork will not be able to create a robust business of the sort it described, but the memo does leave room for mining pools of other sorts to contribute to campaigns.

The FEC has put strict limitations on crypto campaign contributions, but it does not necessarily forbid the use of crypto and crypto mining for raising fiat funds which are then contributed. Furthermore, the FEC explicitly cast mining as ‘volunteer activity,’ which would mean there would be no limit to campaign contributions from mining pools. This means that a mining pool which, at least for tax purposes, was not a ‘partnership’ of the sort that OsiaNetwork is, would be well within their rights for much larger individual contributions. This conclusion has proved controversial, with the Center for Public Integrity yesterday issuing a report that criticized the FEC’s conclusions, and claimed they lacked the technical understanding to know what they were permitting. A mining pool, with little oversight and no campaign contribution limitations would allow an otherwise limited entity a potential bypass to leverage money into crypto mining.

Read more: Crypto contributions and Tomorrow Midterms Elections

Richard E Fein of Free Speech for the People voiced his opposition to the order noting that the FEC’s decision would ‘create a loophole to exploit and bypass all campaign contributions,’ and that the sort of business OsiaNetwork proposes is a ‘model that is fundamentally at odds with the basic principles of the Federal Election Campaign Act.’ Jonathon S Sack, to the contrary, paints the request in a different light, writing that the ‘proposal would permit millions of people, essentially anyone with an internet connection- to volunteer in support of candidates.’

While the notion that anyone with computer access would have equal political weight is attractive, mining power is increasingly centralized and controlled by industrial mining pools. The notion that a large swath of ‘volunteers’ could democratically compete with mining power which is rent-able, has so far not been borne out, and certainly won’t be if crypto mining suddenly is a political golden goose. The idea that computers being run by corporations are 'volunteers' is a suspicious extension of 'corporate personhood,' and wll certainly not be worth the small number of individuals with comparatively little processing power being enabled to put their computers towards their politcal interests. Blockchain may have a way to increase the transparency and participation of Democracy, but this certainly isn’t it.

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