- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bitcoin donations accounted for nearly a quarter of the roughly $6 million raised since December 2016 by Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s failed campaign against President Vladimir Putin, his campaign manager said Wednesday.

Barred from running for president by Russian authorities, Mr. Navalny’s campaign chief said the candidate nonetheless raised about 373 million rubles ($5.986 million) between December 2016 and April 2018, including about roughly 91 million rubles ($1.460 million) worth of Bitcoin, a decentralized and unregulated cryptocurrency.

All told over 100,000 people donated to the 2018 Navalny campaign, each one contributing an average of about 1,500 rubles, or roughly $24, campaign manager Leonid Volkov wrote in financial reports cited Wednesday by Russian media outlets, including the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and the news site Meduza.

Mr. Navalny, 41, launched his presidential bid in late 2016, but was barred from running by authorities the following December over a conviction he and his supporters have called politically motivated. Mr. Putin, 65, was ultimately elected to a fourth term in office following last month’s Kremlin election.

The Navalny campaign began accepting Bitcoin contributions in December 2016, and a single Bitcoin wallet linked to his bid has received a total of 319.292 Bitcoin during the course of about 1,800 related transactions logged in the past 16 months, according to public records. As of Wednesday it contained only 0.00848518 BTC, or roughly $76.

Bitcoin was introduced in 2009, and candidates internationally have used it for fundraising purposes during the nearly decade since.

In the U.S., the Federal Election Commission ruled in May 2014 that political campaigns and political action committees could accept Bitcoin as a form of in-kind contribution, and Rep. Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat, almost immediately afterwards became the first congressional candidate to begin accepting Bitcoin donations in compliance with the FEC’s announcement.

“I believe that alternative currencies add value, help reduce the cost of remittances, provide alternatives to conventional banking systems and can reduce transaction cost. So I think they offer a lot and government should tread lightly, and consumers should be wary as well because of the risks associated with them,” Mr. Polis told Time magazine when his congressional campaign started accepting Bitcoin nearly four years ago.

More recently Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, became the first U.S. presidential hopeful to accept Bitcoin donations in accordance with FEC rules in April 2015.

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