Politics

Lawmakers Must Now File Financial Disclosures for Cryptocurrencies

House Ethics Committee rules cryptocurrencies are a form of securities

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Any House members who secretly moonlight as Bitcoin miners received bad news this week after the House Ethics Committee decided cryptocurrencies are subject to financial disclosure requirements for lawmakers and senior congressional staffers.

Cryptocurrencies, including the widely known variety called Bitcoin, are a form of online currency. Transactions made using cryptocurrencies are validated by a decentralized system of computers rather than a centralized bank.

The ballooning contingent of cryptocurrency adopters say virtual currencies are independent from government interference, allowing them to transcend borders and avoid government manipulation or interference.

But they’re no longer outside the gaze of congressional oversight, according to a memo the Ethics Committee sent Monday to all House members, officers and employees.

The committee, chaired by Indiana GOP Rep. Susan W. Brooks, ruled that cryptocurrencies are subject to the annual financial disclosure filing rules that apply to all House members and senior congressional staffers.

Therefore, members and senior staffers now must disclose ownership interest in cryptocurrencies valued at more than $1,000 in their annual financial disclosure filings. The virtual currencies are also subject to the limit on outside income for members, which is $28,050 for 2018.

Income earnings from cryptocurrency include any payments they receive for cryptocurrency “mining” — a method by which users of cryptocurrency networks earn money by gathering together transactions and checking that they are valid. Networks reward “miners” by giving them units of the currency.

Financial disclosures include information about the amount and sources of a filer’s income, including their assets, earned income and unearned income by the filer, their spouses, and dependent children.

Not until after the next filing deadline, May 15, will the public get a look at whether their representatives are rolling in virtual coin.

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