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Single-issue ‘crypto’ voters urged to save single-issue ‘crypto’ companies

Single-issue ‘crypto’ voters could decide the U.S. presidential election, at least, according to ‘crypto’ companies whose single issue is avoiding another four years of Joe Biden.

Barry Silbert’s scandal-plagued venture capital firm Digital Currency Group recently issued the results of a new voter survey it commissioned. Conducted by The Harris Poll, the survey claims one in five registered voters in key 2024 battleground states—Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania—say a candidate/party’s views on digital assets could sway how they vote come November.

Tidbits from this survey show only around 14% of voters actually own any digital assets, the same slice that claim they plan to acquire more over the next six months. Meanwhile, 69% of voters have a negative view of ‘crypto’ while only 41% agree that “crypto represents a new way towards financial security and prosperity.” Even fewer (35%) believe ‘crypto’ is “the future of transacting.”

To no one’s surprise, far more ‘crypto-positive’ voters (41%) than overall voters (21%) claim “crypto is a major issue I’m considering during the next election.” Similarly, only 36% of overall voters are concerned about “legislation that would interfere with crypto” compared to 61% of the crypto-positive crew.

While the number of truly ‘crypto-committed’ voters might appear small, political analysts agree that the 2024 race will come down to a tiny sliver of the population. The Cook Political Report recently claimed that just 6% of voters in six states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (with an honorable mention for North Carolina)—will end up deciding the result for the rest of the country.

While ‘crypto’ voters have previously expressed a preference for Donald Trump, Stormy Daniels’ ex doesn’t appear to be taking the ‘crypto’ vote for granted. On May 8, Trump was scheduled to host a Mar-a-Lago dinner for the handful of individuals who bought at least 47 of his $99 ‘Mugshot Edition’ line of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Those who bought at least 100 Trump NFTs were invited to a ”VIP” cocktail reception before this dinner.

Trump previously expressed utter disdain for digital assets, sticking to his longstanding distrust of anything seeking to compete with the U.S. dollar. But he appeared to change his tune in March by telling CNBC that mainstream digital assets like BTC had “taken on a life” of their own and he was no longer sure “that I’d want to take [crypto] away at this point.”

Trump went further at Mar-a-Lago on May 8, telling his invited guests that “crypto is moving out of the U.S. because of hostility toward crypto … We’ll stop that because I don’t want that … If we’re going to embrace it, we have to let them be here.” Trump also claimed that if his fans couldn’t currently donate to his campaign using crypto, “I’ll make sure you can.”

Trump also took shots at his opponent, saying “Biden has no idea” about crypto. Trump also took a shot at Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair Gary Gensler, saying he’s “very much against [crypto], the Democrats are very much against it … And I’m fine with it. I want to make sure it’s good and solid and everything. But I’m good with it … If you’re in favor of crypto, you better vote for Trump.”

Veto Joe

Over at the White House, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a statement on May 8 regarding House Republicans’ efforts to pass a resolution (H.J. Res. 109) aimed at walking back SAB 121, the crypto-focused accounting change announced by the SEC last year.

SAB 121, which contains strict ‘guidelines’ for institutions looking to custody digital assets, has been blamed by Republicans for discouraging ‘crypto’ adoption by traditional finance institutions and thus keeping an artificial lid on the overall sector’s potential growth.

The OMB statement made it clear that Biden “strongly opposes” H.J. Res. 109, noting that SAB 121 “was issued in response to demonstrated technological, legal, and regulatory risks that have caused substantial losses to consumers.” As such, “if the President were presented with H.J. Res. 109, he would veto it.”

While the House approved H.J. Res. 109 on Wednesday, the Senate has to do likewise before it gets anywhere near Biden’s ban-hammer. And with the Senate under Democratic control, passage will prove a far higher hurdle, assuming it even comes up for a vote. You can call time on this resolution.

Fairshake v. the rules

Trump’s mercurial flip-flops aside, ‘crypto’ stakeholders are seeking to promote any and all candidates that might look favorably on letting them run amok through the financial hallways.

Take Fairshake, the political action committee (PAC) that launched last year after Brian Armstrong, CEO of the Coinbase (NASDAQ: COIN) exchange, declared that “the crypto industry is going to have to get a bit more sophisticated and powerful in terms of our lobbying efforts and our political power that we can bring to bear for the 2024 election.”

New data from compiled by the progressive thinktank Public Citizen shows Fairshake and its affiliates Defend American Jobs PAC and Protect Progress PAC have so far raised over $102 million, ranking an impressive third among super PACs in the current election cycle.

Public Citizen’s research director Rick Claypool summed up Fairshake’s goals thusly: “Stop enforcement crackdowns, block regulation that prevents fraud, and defeat candidates who support either.”

While the specifics of individual donor contributions to Fairshake and its affiliates was previously only estimated, Public Citizen shows the single largest contributor is Coinbase at $23.5 million, plus another $1 million of Armstrong’s own cash. Second place goes to Ripple Labs with $23 million, while venture capitalists Marc Andreessen (a Coinbase director) and Ben Horowitz (of Andreessen Horowitz/a16z venture capital fame) each contributed $11 million to the cause.

Market-makers Jump Crypto anted up $5 million, while Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, founders of the Gemini crypto exchange, contributed $2.5 million apiece. Another $2 million came from Phil Potter, former chief strategy officer at the Bitfinex exchange and the Tether (USDT) stablecoin. And a million apiece came from the Kraken exchange, USDC issuer Circle, and Union Square Ventures co-founder Fred Wilson (another Coinbase director).

It’s incredible how many of the above entities are currently or have been on the wrong end of a regulatory smackdown by the SEC, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the New York Attorney General’s Office or some other state or federal authority. It’s almost as if they’ve decided it’s better to spend big on lobbying to fend off even bigger payouts from future legal settlements.

Targets acquired

As for who Fairshake might target, Horowitz stated last December that Andreessen Horowitz were “non-partisan, one issue voters: If a candidate supports an optimistic technology-enabled future, we are for them. If they want to choke off important technologies, we are against them.”

Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) felt Fairshake’s sting in March, having been on the wrong side of $10 million in donations to Porter’s rivals for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Dianne Feinstein. Among Fairshake’s next targets are the Senate races in Ohio and Montana—two of 2024’s battleground states cited above.

Fairshake is also trying to ensure its preferred candidates are in place before the general election by funding primary campaigns by both Democratic and Republican candidates. To virtually no one’s surprise, many of the recipients of Fairshake’s largesse have suddenly found themselves expressing firm (and positive) views of all things crypto.

In January, CNBC reported on a non-profit group called Cedar Innovation Foundation that launched in Delaware a year ago. Much of the group’s outlay to date has targeted noted crypto critics such as Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Roger Marshall (R-KS). Cedar has also run spots urging people to contact Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and tell him to push back on SEC chair Gensler’s efforts to temper crypto’s excesses.

While the group doesn’t disclose its donors, CNBC’s sources said Cedar was ‘heavily funded by crypto industry players,’ with Coinbase reportedly set to add its financial support sometime this year. Dennis Kelleher, CEO of the Better Markets non-profit, told CNBC that “the crypto industry is going to put hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in trying to defeat people who want to actually represent the voters, rather than represent crypto.”

Mine the gap

Meanwhile, other campaign funding watchers claim to have detected a new alliance between crypto backers and supporters of artificial intelligence (AI).

Both of these tech sectors are heavily funded by many of the same investors—including Andreessen Horowitz, Fred Wilson and others—and share some common DNA—what Slate called “a hunger for uninhibited growth and an allergy to regulatory burdens.”

But both of these sectors appear headed in opposite directions. AI is the new hot chick at the bar, one with whom you can actually envision doing stuff. Meanwhile, ‘crypto’ may have rebounded from its late-2022 nadir but it’s still largely a utility-free cult of grifters, scammers and pump-and-dumpers eternally looking for their next marks and/or exit liquidity.

Crypto does have one thing that AI large language models (LLMs) can’t do without: vast warehouses full of graphic processing units (GPUs) currently used for mining transactions on proof-of-work blockchains but could be reconfigured to assist in training LLMs for fun and profit.

BTC miners made out like bandits in the run-up to April’s ‘halving’ event as the token’s price surged and sentimental/speculative users paid enormous fees to ensure their transactions made it into specific halving blocks. The brief hubbub over April’s launch of the Runes memecoin-creation standard on BTC helped smooth the post-halving hangover by keeping fees high. At least, for a time.

But as with everything memecoin-related, Runes has already shown signs of ‘meh’ sinking in. Plus, the block rewards are now half of what they were and BTC’s fiat price has retreated from its latest lofty heights. All of which means BTC miners have some tough choices ahead.

A so-called ‘pivot to AI’ seems the obvious play for these acres of GPUs barely covering their enormous electricity bills. But if AI-focused tech giants can pay miners more for LLM training than BTC can generate in fees and rewards—or just outright acquire mining operations and let their stakeholders walk off into the sunset with stacks of filthy fiat—what does that mean for the long-term future of BTC and other PoW blockchains?

Well, they better find a purpose beyond ‘number go up’ and find it fast, otherwise all their lobbying cash will buy them is a nicer deck chair on the Titanic.

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