Bitcoin Gets a Voice in Washington
July 21, 2014
At a conference in Chicago on Saturday, the first Bitcoin trade association that will employ full-time lobbyists in Washington, D.C. launched with the aim of swaying legislators and educating consumers and merchants on the digital currency. Perianne Boring, the former Congressional staffer and financial services journalist who founded and will lead the organization, introduced the Chamber of Digital Commerce to a buzzing audience of entrepreneurs and enthusiasts at the North American Bitcoin Conference.
Boring said her time on Capitol Hill introduced her to the technology, its need for a voice in Washington and the ability to speak the language of legislators.
"I was the person who would sit down and meet with all the lobbyists that wanted to talk to Congress. So I understand how these conversations work," she told CardNotPresent.com. "As a student of monetary policy, Bitcoin interested me a lot when I heard about it. Then 2013 happened. I saw all these scandals from Silk Road to Mt Gox . Then I saw how the Hill was responding. Regulators and policy makers were starting to issue guidelines and legislation. The problem was there was no one in D.C. that could talk to them from an industry standpoint."
Boring said the Digital Chamber is cognizant of the reputational harm created by those scandals and said the non-profit, member-supported group "will not be a shelter for illegitimate players." Instead, Boring and the new group will work within the established system to persuade lawmakers that the industry welcomes "smart regulation." She acknowledged the work of groups like The Bitcoin Foundation and DATA , but called any efforts at lobbying in Washington "fragmented."
"We’re looking to build relationships," she said. "We do need to work with what is in place. We need to be realistic. But, we need to allow for innovation so the technology can further grow because it’s so new."
Boring said the group needs the summer to close out its seed funding round, staff up and form an advisory board before it begins membership recruitment this fall. But, she noted, it’s important to get on with that work as soon as possible because the technology moves fast and legislators are already at work. She says Bitcoin is moving the financial services industry from horse-and-buggy to a spaceship.
"The conversation is already starting to change from ‘why accept bitcoin?’ to ‘why not accept bitcoin?’. And we’re going to help drive that narrative," Boring said. "Bitcoin is faster, it’s cheaper and it’s safer than a credit card. And we need to do a better job at explaining to merchants and consumers how that process happens. There is definitely some education needed before everyone is comfortable getting on the spaceship."