Florida House Candidate Can Use Digital ‘Coin’ as Incentive for Campaign Volunteers

July 12, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – An Independent congressional candidate in Florida has been given the green light to distribute a digital “coin” to volunteers and supporters as an incentive to engage in activities that support his campaign.

In an advisory opinion issued on Thursday, the Federal Election Commission said Omar Reyes, who is running in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, can distribute the tokens, which are built on the Ethereum blockchain, because they are “materially indistinguishable from traditional forms of campaign souvenirs.”

The Ethereum blockchain is a global, open-source platform primarily used to write code for decentralized applications.

Reyes used the blockchain to create 10 million “OMR tokens,” which have no monetary value and can’t be used to purchase goods or services.

Reyes and his election campaign also assured the commission they will not sell the tokens to any of his supporters.

Instead, once a supporter downloads a digital wallet, Reyes’ campaign will transfer the tokens to them, depending on the support offered to the campaign.

In doing so, the campaign will pay a small transaction fee to the Ethereum network, and it believes that since a fee is involved, supporters will refrain from sending the tokens to each other.

Once the election is over, the campaign will reward the three supporters who own the highest number of OMR tokens with prizes for their volunteer activities.

In rendering its decision, the commission said, “rather than constituting a form of compensation, OMR Tokens are analogous to more traditional types of campaign souvenirs, such as bumper stickers, yard signs or buttons — all of which are regularly distributed by campaigns to volunteers and supporters at no cost to the volunteer or supporter, and without implicating federal campaign finance law.

“In fact, the distribution of such campaign souvenirs has been an essential component of American political campaigns since the earliest American elections,” the opinion continued. “Campaigns rely on supporters wearing or displaying campaign insignia to promote their candidates and demonstrate the breadth of their support, while supporters display these souvenirs to express their pride in the campaign.

“That free campaign souvenirs can now be distributed and displayed through a digital, rather than physical, medium is immaterial for purposes of the Act and Commission regulations. Consequently, the Commission concludes that nothing in the Act or Commission regulations would limit or prohibit the Committee from distributing OMR Tokens as described in the request,” the FEC said.

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