Cryptocurrency becoming more common for campaign donations

Jason Holloway — who is currently running for a seat in the Florida House — says his relationship with cryptocurrency began in 2017 when a friend suggested that he begin investing in digital asset companies.

He immediately began making money from his investments but was intrigued and wanted to learn more about the technology behind it.

That led to him acquiring a master’s degree in digital currencies from the University of Nicosia in Greece, the only accredited academic blockchain technology program in the world at the time.


What You Need To Know

  • Jason Holloway, who is accepting crypto contributions, is running for the Florida House District 58 seat in northern Pinellas County
  • Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried’s political action committee is also accepting crypto contributions

A former legislative aid to St. Petersburg Democratic state Sen. Darryl Rouson, Holloway is now running for a legislative seat as a Republican in the House District 58 race this year, and is one of a very select group of political candidates in Florida accepting cryptocurrency campaign contributions this election cycle.

“They’re true believers,” he said of crypto enthusiasts who have contributed to his campaign using cryptocurrency. “They don’t want to use U.S. dollars. They want to use bitcoin. They want to use dogecoin. They want to use something else because that’s what they believe in. So, I’m giving them the opportunity.”

There has been an incremental increase in the number of U.S. political campaigns accepting cryptocurrency campaign donations (specifically bitcoin) since 2014.  

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul became one of the first high profile politicians to accept crypto donations, going back to his unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for president during the 2015-16 election cycle.

Four years later, Andrew Yang and U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell began accepting crypto donations during their respective races for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2019-20, as did Orlando-area Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in his past two re-election campaigns.

And the political action committee supporting Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s bid for governor this year, Florida Consumers First, announced in January that it was accepting donations by cryptocurrency. 

Holloway was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the state’s Blockchain Task Force back in 2019 to study how the state and local governments can benefit from transition to blockchain-based systems for recordkeeping, data security, financial transactions and service delivery.

He extolled the virtues of blockchain-based systems, saying that people should think of it as simply a database system.

“They’re faster,” Holloway said. “They’re more secure — you can see every transaction that ever happens on there, and it’s immutable because you can’t go back and delete things and hide things. So, it’s really going to be important, especially in public records space, because if you were to look at all your public records that are on blockchain, you can’t delete stuff.

“You’re going to be able to see everything, which is really the way that it should be.”

Holloway spoke with Spectrum Bay News 9 last week at the Crypto Street Restaurant in Clearwater, a crypto-themed eatery which opened last December and features items like “The Blockchain Sandwich” (which is actually a club sandwich) and “Dogedog” hot dogs (dogecoin being another cryptocurrency that is accepted there).

General Manager Ricardo Varona said that he was initially skeptical about cryptocurrency when his son began investing in it several years ago. He said that the number of customers who pay with cryptocurrency varies — some weeks he gets a half-dozen or more such transactions.

Since the Federal Election Commission allowed political campaigns to accept crypto donations in 2014, the rule has been that candidates and political committees must convert crypto into cash before spending it. But the agency has recently approved allowing federal committees to hold bitcoin as an investment.

Ron Watkins, a Republican house candidate in Arizona, reported that he lost 27% (or $342) of his two bitcoin contributions that originally amounted to $1,255, according to the Daily Beast.

Holloway said that’s why he has set up his website to immediately convert any cryptocurrency contributions into cash.

“You should be converting it to U.S. dollars as soon as you get it,” he said. “You don’t take investments — I can’t take your Tesla stock and hold it, but I can take cryptocurrencies as a payment method. But I’ve got to make sure I sell it right away for that value.”

Florida is one of 12 states that allow cryptocurrency donations, according to govtech.com. Nine states ban cryptocurrency donations.

Ethan Eilon, the president of IMGE, a digital marketing agency focused on Republican politics, said legislators in many states are still trying to assess the landscape when it comes to cryptocurrency.

“I do think we will see some states take a more open stance toward them than the ones who’ve outlawed it,” Eilon said. “You’ve got folks in some states who are accepting crypto for state tax payments, like Colorado, and I think that sort of bias towards more open opportunity for crypto will lead into what happens on the donation front, too.”

The value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has gone down dramatically over the past month — bitcoin specifically is down around 24% in the past 30 days, CNBC reported last week.

Holloway said that while he remains a cryptocurrency enthusiast, he disagrees with those who believe that cryptocurrencies will be the future of all payments in the U.S.

“It’s going to be a means,” he said. “The government’s not going to go away, we’re still going to have the U.S. dollar.”

He said it’s also foolhardy to believe that crypto cash won’t be regulated in the future. That’s why he said people like himself need to be elected to ensure that there won’t be “overburdensome regulation and people creating rules that don’t understand the ecosystem of how it works.”

That kind of regulation would ultimately hurt the public’s faith in the idea of distributed ledger technology overall, he said.

A recent NBC News poll showed conflicting feelings that Americans have toward cryptocurrency: Only 19% of people said that they view crypto positively, while 25% view it negatively. The majority — 56% — said they feel neutral or they’re not sure about the crypto industry.

Holloway is one of four Republicans who have filed to run for the House District 58 seat in northern Pinellas County — which was changed from House District 67 due to redistricting — which is being vacated later this year by incumbent Chris Latvala. 

Former state Rep. Kim Berfield, Paul Hatfield and Jim Vricos are also running in House District 58 on the Aug. 23, GOP primary ballot.