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The midterm elections this year aren't just about red vs blue. Cryptocurrency investors are attempting to turn politics orange.
That is the hue chosen by bitcoin's most fervent supporters, who have poured money into campaigns around the country.
The political action committee Protect Our Future is led by Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of crypto exchange FTX. The group has raised $14 million, the majority of which came from millionaire Bankman-Fried, and it has the potential to tip the scales in House contests in Ohio and Oregon.
GMI PAC, which has already raised $6 million and aims to spend $20 million this cycle, is also run by FTX executives. HODLpac, which has received approximately $230,000 in contributions, assesses politicians' trustworthiness on matters crucial to cryptocurrency investors.
Elections provide a new frontier for an industry founded on skepticism of authority and decentralized governance. However, the last summer's struggle over the federal infrastructure bill, which included new IRS reporting requirements for the industry, galvanized crypto executives and enthusiasts alike. The industry immediately established a lobbying machine on Capitol Hill, and it aims to channel that momentum into the midterms.
“The crypto sector is happy to support political representatives in the United States who believe in the genuine potential of the crypto economy,” said Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association, a crypto trade group. “And as an industry, we're not afraid to voice and support what we believe in, which includes political contributions.”
The primary election in Ohio on Tuesday will be one of the industry's first litmus tests. State Treasurer Josh Mandel is a prominent candidate for the open Senate seat – and a vocal proponent of bitcoin.
He liquidated his stocks last year and invested the proceeds in Bitcoin. He has a five-star rating from HODLpac and just spoke at a large bitcoin conference in Miami.
Mandel is one of four insurgent candidates sponsored by the Financial Freedom PAC, which debuted earlier this month and includes two Republicans and two Democrats from across the country. The PAC is solely focused on bitcoin and expects to raise at least $1 million by the conclusion of the cycle.
“We're really impassioned groups of individuals — people who were frankly dissatisfied with politics, the government, and existing institutions,” one of the group's founders, Grant McCarty, said. “We want students to understand that by using their voice — by playing in D.C. in this fashion — we can actually convince lawmakers to reflect their interests.”
There is also a lot of money going into the race between incumbent Rep. Shontel Brown, D-Ohio, and progressive challenger Nina Turner. Last year, in a special election for the Cleveland-area 11th Congressional District, Brown received 50.2 percent of the vote, 6 percentage points more than Turner.
Protect Our Future is strengthening Brown's campaign with more than $1 million in radio, digital, and television commercials this year – a windfall for a politician whose campaign has raised $4 million.
Turner tweeted in response to the outside expenditure, “See, there is an obvious difference in this race.” One of the candidates in this primary is available for purchase. I am not available for purchase. Cleveland will not be sold.”
Darryle Torbert, a Brown spokesperson, stressed that the campaign is not linked with Protect Our Future, but that Brown is keeping an eye on the White House's developments on crypto policy.
“Commonsense regulation of the cryptocurrency market would not only serve to better safeguard consumers, but it would also bring greater stability and certainty to the market, allowing it to continue to flourish in the coming years,” he said.
Protect Our Future is also investing in the congressional election in Oregon's 6th Congressional District. According to federal election reports, the PAC has spent more than $7 million on behalf of Democratic candidate Carrick Flynn. The organisation has stated that their support is based on his experience in pandemic preparedness, not his views on cryptocurrency.
Nonetheless, the money has built enough momentum that establishment entities such as the House Majority PAC – an outside entity linked with and supportive of House Democrats — are now now supporting his candidacy.
The crypto community is not only growing in size. It also pursues politicians who criticize the sector. One of the top targets is Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif.
He has likened cryptocurrency to the subprime mortgages that caused the 2008 financial catastrophe. He recently co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to limit the use of cryptocurrencies in order to prevent Russia from evading sanctions.
“The money and power are all on the other side.” You don't have a political action committee. “You don't have lobbying gangs,” he told a top Treasury official at a congressional hearing in February.
“What you do have is the credibility of knowing that the Treasury Department and your connected agencies are putting the national interest ahead of the pecuniary interests of certain investors,” he continued, speaking to attempts to prevent the use of cryptocurrency to circumvent sanctions.
In response, the Financial Freedom PAC has endorsed one of his primary competitors, Aarika Rhodes, in her longshot bid to unseat the 13-term congressman. Rhodes, an elementary school teacher, feels bitcoin has the potential to help democratize the financial system.
Earlier this year, she moderated a Twitter conversation with former Twitter CEO and crypto supporter Jack Dorsey.
It's a difficult battle, but McCarty believes that even getting one bitcoin supporter to Congress this November would be a victory – and enough to drive momentum for years to come.
“This is not a game for us to play in the short term.” The battle for Bitcoin will be a marathon, not a sprint. “2022 is only the beginning,” he explained. “I really believe we will see an orange wave on Washington in 2024.”