Wyoming elects first Bitcoin owner to U.S. Senate
The cryptocurrency industry’s fortunes in Washington, D.C., received a potential boost on election night as Wyoming voters elected former congresswoman Cynthia Lummis to the U.S. Senate.
Lummis bought Bitcoin in 2013 on a tip from her son-in-law and, upon her arrival to Senate in January, will be the first member of Congress’s upper chamber to own cryptocurrency. Members of the House of Representatives, including former chair of the Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte, have disclosed owning crypto in the past, but no U.S. Senator has done so.
Lummis’s election also comes as her home state is branding itself as a haven for cryptocurrency entrepreneurs. In the past two years, Wyoming has passed a series of laws to facilitate crypto commerce and recently granted charters to two banks that will allow them to perform a variety of transactions using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Caitlin Long, the CEO of one of those banks, Avanti Financial, predicted Lummis will advocate for the fast-growing crypto industry.
“In typical Wyoming fashion, we’re sending someone to D.C. who respects individual rights, and especially the right to keep the fruits of our labor. Cynthia believes in the philosophy behind Bitcoin, not just that it is a new asset class,” Long said.
Lummis could not be immediately reached for comment.
Even if Lummis emerges as an advocate for cryptocurrency in the Senate, the fast-growing crypto industry still faces significant regulatory headwinds. Despite the recent decision by big companies like Square and PayPal to embrace crypto, many lawmakers and agencies like the IRS view it primarily as a vehicle for money-laundering and tax evasion.
Meanwhile, Bitcoin and other digital currencies face an obstacle to their adoption in everyday commerce owing to tax rules that treat every transaction as a capital gains event. The crypto industry is trying to address that by pushing a bill that would create a so-called de minimis exemption for minor crypto transactions.
That initiative could be in peril, though, as the bill’s main sponsor, Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), is currently behind in a tight reelection race that, as of Wednesday, was too close to call.
Neeraj Agrawal, a spokesperson for the nonprofit crypto research group Coin Center, told Fortune that he doesn’t foresee major changes in political attitudes toward crypto, given that Congress will likely remain split after this week’s election. He added that he hopes lawmakers will have more time to pay attention to the topic in the coming year and that Lummis’s arrival could be a benefit.
“Senator-elect Lummis has shown an interest in cryptocurrency issues, which is great to see. We are looking forward to working with her,” said Agrawal.