US Lawmaker Calls for Members of Congress to Disclose Cryptocurrency Holdings

In February 2018, U.S. House Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) announced that he had petitioned the House Committee on Ethics to require Members of Congress to disclose cryptocurrency holdings exceeding  $1,000. Polis argues that cryptocurrencies should be treated by the Ethics Committee much like other financial assets and reminds them that, “Financial disclosures are critical to maintaining public trust in elected officials and the integrity of Congress.”

Polis’ Case for Crypto-disclosure in Congress

Polis points out that several U.S. agencies have already started to regulate cryptocurrencies in some instances; the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has deemed virtual currencies subject to income tax rules and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) both regard cryptocurrencies as commodities. A hearing was held in early February by the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs to explore the oversight role of these agencies regarding digital money, especially in relation to initial coin offerings (ICOs).

“The increasing use of cryptocurrency as an alternative to traditional payments and investments necessitates Congress take appropriate action to maintain transparency and deter potential conflicts of interest … ” Polis writes. He mentions that Members of Congress and covered employees are already required to report asset holdings of certain amounts, including commodities holdings of more than $1,000. Also, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act requires them to share in real time the purchase, sale or exchange of bonds, stocks, commodities futures or other securities exceeding $ 1,000. Thus, he concludes, Members should follow the same principle with cryptocurrencies and disclose holdings over $1,000.

Polis Is a Proponent of Cryptocurrencies

Polis asks the Committee for additional guidance and suggests they work with the CFTC, SEC, and IRS toward this goal. In the past, he has shown his support for crypto-normalization by accepting bitcoin donations for his campaigns. Also, in 2017, he introduced a bill called the Cryptocurrency Tax Fairness Act of 2017, which would allow consumers to make purchases with cryptocurrency up to $600, “without burdensome reporting requirements.” He is a member of the Congressional Blockchain Caucus.

As previously reported by Block Explorer, many Ukrainian officials have disclosed their ownership of bitcoin in the past two years — 57 have declared over 21,000 bitcoin. The Ukraine government and national bank are also in the midst of forming cryptocurrency regulations.

Featured image from Rep. Polis’ press kit at polis.house.gov.

Julia Travers

Julia Travers is a writer. Her work appears with NPR, Earth Island Journal, Discover Magazine, On Being and SciArt Magazine, among other publications. She's on Twitter @traversjul.

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