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Media advisory: Experts can comment on FEC deadlock over Bitcoin contributions to campaigns

Wed, 08/27/2014

LAWRENCE — Mark Johnson, lecturer in journalism at the University of Kansas, and Patrick Miller, assistant professor of political science, are available to speak with media about the Federal Election Commission’s ongoing deadlock, setting policy by taking no action and recent stance on contributions of Bitcoin to elections.

The commission, composed of three Republican and three Democratic appointees, recently announced it would not issue an advisory opinion on whether the Conservative Action Fund could accept contributions of the online currency Bitcoin. The commission has evenly split votes more than 200 times in the past six years. That inaction has had a significant effect on the rules regarding political campaigns, especially those involving whether nonprofit groups are required to disclose their finances.

Johnson has taught election law in the School of Law and now teaches courses on election and campaign law in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, as well as classes on First Amendment law and a seminar on free speech. He holds a history degree from Yale University and a law degree from Harvard University, and he is a founder of the Kansas City office of Dentons US LLP, an international law firm that represents telecommunications companies, wireless carriers and cable companies.

He can discuss the trend of the FEC setting elections policy by taking no action as well as the most recent policy, which allows campaign contributions by untraceable Bitcoin and other similar rulings.

To schedule an interview with Johnson, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or mkrings@ku.edu.

Miller is available to discuss the implications on campaign finance and political behavior of frequent FEC deadlocks. Miller’s broad research interests include mass political behavior and how political partisanship among average citizens might enable polarization of political elites.

Miller said the underlying problem is that campaign finance laws are often vague. While the law and technology are both changing, FEC rulings have not kept up with those changes, creating gray areas, such as Bitcoin.

"If the FEC refuses to clarify those situations, then political entities like groups and contributors can engage in activities that can violate the spirit of the law but that might be legal simply because no authority said they aren’t,” Miller said. "And because the courts traditionally defer to FEC rulings in interpreting campaign finance laws, the legal system is an unlikely venue for cracking down on those suspect activities because no such FEC rulings exist."

To schedule an interview with Miller, contact George Diepenbrock at 785-864-8853 or gdiepenbrock@ku.edu.



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