In a recent press release, the Bitcoin Foundation announced that they have retained Thorsen French Advocacy as an outside lobbying firm to represent the Bitcoin Foundation’s interests in Washington. Thorsen French Advocacy is run by Alec French and Carl Thorsen, long time professional acquaintances of Jim Harper, the Bitcoin Foundation’s Global Policy Counsel. French is a former counsel for the Democratic House Judiciary Committee, and Thorsen was general counsel to a Justice Department official and the House majority leader during the second Bush Administration. The Bitcoin Foundation will likely be making similar moves in other countries around the world, where they have been busy setting up embassies to increase the legitimacy of Bitcoin on the ground.
The public and political perception of Bitcoin has taken a sharp 180-degree turn over the last several months. People have finally stopped using the word “bubble” to describe Bitcoin because the word ‘bubble’ implies a return to an average value lower than the pre-bubble average value after ‘popping.’ Since the last Bitcoin spike, the US government has now sold tens of thousands of Bitcoin in auction, adding tremendous legitimacy to the new technology. The IRS has released a Virtual Currency Guidance on the federal level (though it is incomplete in the eyes of many) and some states, notably Texas, have done even better in clarifying laws in relation to Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Despite all the progress, Bitcoin and government regulation still have a long way to go.
In a post on the Bitcoin Foundation’s blog, Harper further expanded on the Foundation’s lobbying choices. He admits “there is an attractively simple argument that public policy is completely superfluous to Bitcoin. As an internet protocol whose users can mask their behavior various ways, Bitcoin doesn’t need governments’ permission.” Some in the community have continually questioned the need for a centralized and moneyed organization such as the Bitcoin Foundation in the Bitcoin diaspora. However, Harper goes on to remind purists that “literally billions of other potential users worldwide are not ready to adopt this still exotic system if its legality is in question.” Harper goes on to state two facts, the first of which every Bitcoiner knows by heart and the second of which every Bitcoiner seeks to forget at all costs:
1. Governments cannot eliminate Bitcoin from the globe.
2. Governments will have a large role in determining Bitcoin’s adoption rate.
While some Bitcoiners are still conflicted over the best way to achieve meaningful communication with government entities, other organizations, such as the Bitcoin Foundation, have started pouring money and manpower into it. While few fault the Foundation for defending Bitcoin in heavily publicized hearings and letters, others worry about the Foundation’s monetary obstacles to participation and undue influence of the Foundation over the Bitcoin Core and Bitcoin developers. Lighthouse is a project developed by Mike Hearn and partly funded by Olivier Janssens that seeks to create a Bitcoin Foundation replacement that can fund pro-Bitcoin directives, such as the hiring of a Washington D.C. lobbying firm.
Thorsen French won’t be the only lobbyists trying to sway Capitol Hill’s opinion on Bitcoin in the coming months. Recently, it was revealed that a lobbying firm retained by Mastercard had included Bitcoin on a lobbying disclosure form. Harper took the opportunity to say that Bitcoin is not under attack in Washington D.C.. Mastercard’s lobbying firm and now the Bitcoin Foundation’s lobbying firm are both joined by many professionals that have been on Capitol Hill promoting Bitcoin’s interests “for some time now.”
Harper’s hope is that “The lawmakers and regulators who have studied Bitcoin take the sensible position that government should seek its benefits and mitigate its risks. We’re carrying this message to Capitol Hill so the Bitcoin community can focus on building tools and services that enrich and improve people’s lives around the world.” Jon Matonis, the Foundation’s Executive Director, echoed the sentiment by reminding readers that “when governments are properly informed about Bitcoin’s promise, the technology’s social and economic benefits are recognized and its rapid innovation and adoption will increase.”
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