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Trump is seeking crypto donations in the latest 2024 campaign outreach for digital wallets

Donald Trump's campaign announced Tuesday that it would now accept donations in digital currency, the latest move by candidates in recent elections to embrace the digital coins and votes of crypto enthusiasts.

The former president touted his program as the first crypto donation plan from a major party nominee.

The move also comes after a host of other political figures from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Vivek Ramaswamy to Rand Paul to Andrew Yang have all accepted donations in digital currencies in recent months and years.

Trump says the embrace of crypto is about freedom. In a release, his campaign said digital currency would "reduce the control of government on an American's financial decision-making is part of a seismic shift toward freedom."

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The move is part of a recent reversal of Trump's long-expressed skepticism of cryptocurrency. In 2017 he said he was "not a fan," and as recently as 2021 offered that bitcoin "seems like a scam" in a television interview.

He has changed his tune more recently and cast himself as a champion of the sector.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 21: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 21, 2024 in New York City. Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records last year, which prosecutors say was an effort to hide a potential sex scandal, both before and after the 2016 presidential election. Trump is the first former U.S. president to face trial on criminal charges. (Photo by Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images)
Former president Donald Trump speaks to reporters during his trial for allegedly falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments. (Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images) (Pool via Getty Images)

Trump is seeking crypto donations as he continues a sprint to try to close a fundraising gap with President Joe Biden after out-raising Biden in April.

Trump is still lagging in the overall money race and saw his haul last month elevated largely because of a single event featuring billionaires that raised more than $50 million.

This campaign trail development also comes as the crypto sector looks for wins in Washington this week.

The House of Representatives is set to vote Wednesday afternoon on an industry-friendly bill that would elevate the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to a leading regulator of digital assets and limit some of the powers of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The funds donated to Trump in crypto will be reported as an in-kind contribution — often compared to donating stock.

In any case, the digital coins are then likely to be quickly converted to cash, with the Trump campaign pledging to comply with federal election laws and regulations.

The campaign says donors who are eligible will be able to use Coinbase Commerce, which touts the ability to accept "hundreds of currencies."

Trump's move is just his latest outreach to the crypto sector during this campaign. One well-publicized recent effort was the launch of Trump-themed NFT trading cards that could be purchased with cryptocurrency.

Trump's efforts to be 2024's candidate of crypto sets up a rivalry with independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy already accepts donations in crypto and has often touted the sector. He has floated an array of perhaps fanciful ideas, from having the US government itself buy bitcoin to a suggestion to "put the entire US budget on blockchain."

The independent candidate is even hosting bitcoin-themed community events — at least two are on the books for this week — to tout his plans.

AURORA, CO - MAY  19: independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waves to the crowd as he exits the stage after speaking during a voter rally at The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace  in Aurora, Colorado on May 19, 2024.  Kennedy talked about his plans to
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waves to the crowd during a rally in Colorado on May 19. (Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images) (Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images via Getty Images)

President Biden has taken a more cautious approach, making only sparing comments on cryptocurrency. The SEC under Biden nominee Gary Gensler has been seen as an anti-crypto force by the sector in recent years after a host of enforcement actions in 2023.

Trump has also often tried to cast Biden as an enemy of crypto. Politico recently reported that Trump held a dinner for his NFT backers in Florida and told the crowd they "better vote" for him.

In Tuesday's release, the Trump campaign also linked Biden with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. It said the Democratic senator from Massachusetts aims to "restrict Americans' right to make their own financial choices."

Warren has emerged as a leading crypto critic, pushing for more oversight and citing the sector's energy footprint.

Another voice — SkyBridge founder Anthony Scaramucci — says it's actually Biden who would be better for crypto if he wins reelection this fall.

Scaramucci briefly served as Trump's communications director in 2017 but has since emerged as a fierce critic.

He has tried to argue the point in recent months and added in a recent Yahoo Finance appearance that Biden is "for the rule of law," which would ultimately be beneficial for markets.

"I tell bitcoiners, you are at risk if you get somebody that wants to destroy the institutions of democracy," said Scaramucci.

Ben Werschkul is Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.

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