The Columbus Dispatch

Cryptocurr­ency donations delayed

- Haley Bemiller

The Ohio Elections Commission could soon allow candidates for elected office to accept campaign donations in Bitcoin and through Venmo – provided they follow certain rules.

The commission plans to consider advisory opinions on the matter as campaigns increasing­ly take advantage of new technology to raise money. Southwest Ohio school board candidates in the November election accepted contributi­ons through their personal Venmo accounts, raising questions about what's legal under Ohio law.

The proposed advisories aim to set the record straight.

Campaigns could collect money through Venmo as long as they create an account separate from the candidate or treasurer's personal profile. Candidates cannot transfer money from their personal account to the campaign fund.

The rules for Bitcoin are a little more complicate­d. Candidates who receive these donations must treat them as inkind contributi­ons – anything of value that's not cash – because cryptocurr­ency isn't considered money.

That said, the draft opinion states that cryptocurr­ency should still be subject to the same contributi­on limits as cash because it's more “fungible” than other in-kind contributi­ons. Candidates would need to convert Bitcoin into the cash equivalent to spend it, and they must also ensure the donor is a proper contributo­r under Ohio law.

The commission tabled the opinions during its meeting Thursday but plans to revisit them later this month.

Haley Bemiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau.

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