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New digital currency bill in Congress? Here’s the real (crazy) scoop.

An article in the Daily Caller claims that some in Congress are considering a digital currency bill, but the story is based on anonymous sources and has very few specifics. It seems related to something we’ve been tracking for a while and I wanted to share some details in the hope that folks won’t be confused if this “story” gets more traction.

The article says that unnamed members of Congress are supposedly “looking at the compliant capabilities of AML Bitcoin, which is a compliant digital currency.” We’ll return to that odd phrasing in a minute, but first we’ll note that “AML Bitcoin” is a product and a company formerly called AtenCoin. On its website, “AML Bitcoin” also describes itself as a “compliant digital currency.” It’s hard to characterize what exactly is “AML Bitcoin,” so I invite you to take a look at their site and decide for yourself. To be clear, though, AML Bitcoin has nothing to do with Bitcoin and, from what we can tell, it’s a small altcoin project.

Now, here’s the fun twist. “AML Bitcoin” has recently teamed up with disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who served time in federal prison for fraud, corruption, and conspiracy, to produce a reality TV show about lobbying Congress on digital currency. (Why can’t it ever be a dull day in this space?) As the Washington Post notes, “[t]he show will follow Abramoff as he leads a group from a cryptocurrency firm AML Bitcoin in a ‘boot camp’ that will transform the members ‘from techies to lobbyists ready to take on Capitol Hill,’ per the show’s creators.” Unfortunately, the headline for that Post article is, “Disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff to train bitcoin activists in new reality TV show,” which leads people to think Abramoff is associated with Bitcoin and not “AML Bitcoin.” Here is another article on Abramoff’s tie-up with “AML Bitcoin.”

Now, as far as the bill that members of Congress are supposedly considering, we’ve seen a document floating around the Hill that may be the supposed bill in question. It is an unofficial and inexpert draft of a bill that, if it were taken seriously, would be very dangerous for cryptocurrencies. It’s hard to interpret because it is quote poorly drafted, but essentially it would sort digital currencies into two categories: “anonymous digital currency” and “compliant digital currency,” and then places AML requirements on merchants who accept digital currencies unless they use a “compliant digital currency.” It also has a “Possession Requirement” that requires merchants to “confirm that digital currency has been in possession of purchaser for at least 30 days[.]” Again, it’s hard to interpret the document because its drafting is bizarre and would create many unintended consequences.

We’re fairly certain that folks on Capitol Hill will see through all this, but we still think it’s important to highlight these details. What folks in Congress and journalists may not know is the distinction between Bitcoin and AML Bitcoin, and they may not know about the Abramoff reality TV show. We hope they’ll be careful as they look into any notional digital currency bills.