By tech standards, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is late to the party. By political standards, he's cutting-edge.
Over the past year, sushi restaurants, cupcake stands, scrappy non-profits, forward-thinking landlords, and even the office supply storefront Overstock.com began trading in Bitcoin. Yesterday, San Jose's pro soccer team, The Earthquakes, announced that it, too, had cottoned to the new money system. Fans can now use Bitcoin to purchase tickets, tchotchkes, or greasy snack foods.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before Newsom would get on board. After all, the ex-San Francisco Mayor who launched his new administration with a spate of gay weddings -- and later, promised to turn Market Street into the next Champs-Elysees -- loves being at the forefront of everything. Right now, he's one of the few politicians to stake claim on the perennially deflating, somewhat controversial Internet currency. (A few other heady office seekers, including Oakland Mayoral candidate Bryan Parker, are also funneling Bitcoin into their war chests.)
That probably augurs well for the transaction system as it wobbles toward mainstream acceptance. After hemming and hawing over whether the currency could be regulated, the Federal Elections Commission finally decreed that donors should be allowed to lavish up to $100 Bitcoin on a Political Action Committee, so long as it's converted to dollars before it goes into the official campaign account.
According to the Chronicle, Newsom has already enticed some deep-pocketed crypto-currency enthusiasts, including local resident Brad Stephens, who has already kicked in thousands to the Lieutenant Governor's campaign. But it's not clear whether other techie investors will donate enough to tip the scales, or silence the Bitcoin detractors within Newsom's own campaign staff. At this point, Bitcoin hovers around $477 -- making far less glamorous, and only a third as valuable as it was last November.
Maybe the party stopped when the politicians got there.