🟪 Leader of the PAC

Political spending ramps up, and RFK Jr. meets the crypto press.

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Note: Byron’s OOO this week. While he’s busy wandering the streets of Kyoto and not thinking about markets or memecoins, David Canellis and Katherine Ross from the Empire newsletter are taking over Byron’s newsletter real estate.

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A Bull Market for PACs

If art reflects culture, what does crypto’s parabolic political spend say?

Ripple Labs and a16z released dueling announcements this week stating they’d each given $25 million to crypto PACs, including this season’s biggest, Fairshake.

Based on data compiled from FEC.gov — which doesn’t yet include Ripple and a16z’s contributions — that would bring the total crypto PAC contributions to $127 million this election season.

Affiliated PACs Defend American Jobs and Protect Progress have otherwise received about $5 million each. 

All that is nearly double what crypto PACs raised throughout 2021 leading up to the midterms, when crypto markets were red hot and former FTX execs Sam Bankman-Fried and Ryan Salame were at their busiest.

The pro-crypto PACs from last cycle are dormant, replaced by Fairshake

Crypto PACs tend to work strategically in key battleground states. The general idea is to get either pro-crypto candidates elected or, at a minimum, replace anti-crypto incumbents.

The committees generally use contributed funds for supportive voter research, consultation and election ad campaigns.

In Fairshake’s case, it has backed a roughly equal number of Republicans and Democrats so far. 

It has however directed almost all of its independent expenditures to date ($10 million out of $11.3 million) on ads opposed to California Democratic Senate candidate Katie Porter, who’s very much aligned with industry villain Elizabeth Warren on all things anti-crypto.

Porter lost her bid for the empty Senate seat in March and called the outcome "rigged," apparently in response to Fairshake’s antagonistic ads.

Most crypto PAC contributions during the midterms came from SBF and Salame

As for who’s bankrolling this season’s crypto PACs the most — Coinbase and Ripple by far. 

Both companies have now given more than Sam Bankman-Fried and Ryan Salame ever did to distinctly pro-crypto political action committees. (Although, SBF actually sent much more to political causes operating outside of the crypto space, as well as through other channels.) 

A16z partners Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz have also stepped up, together giving $24 million in late 2023.

Crypto in politics is awkward after the whole FTX thing. Luckily, there’s enough dollars flowing into these PACs to slowly wash that funk away.

— David Canellis

We’re all in this together 

No, really, we are. Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told me Thursday at Consensus in Austin, TX. 

I asked him what he thought about former President Donald Trump turning his support for crypto to which he said he was "happy" about it.

"I think it's a good thing for our country. Commitment to crypto is a commitment to freedom and transparency. I’m not going to question if it was a political decision, I’m happy he did it and I hope President Biden does too," he added. 

But crypto isn’t the only thing the two candidates see eye to eye on. Kennedy added that he also agreed with Trump’s pledge that he’d commute Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht if elected, noting that he’s also talked about that. Though, at a later point in the press conference, Kennedy said he’d need to review the case before deciding whether to issue a pardon. 

In a small room above the hustle and bustle of the main event, Kennedy spoke about bitcoin, ETH ETFs and even fielded a question on whether he’d consider himself a conservative. (He said no, he thinks he’s not "right or left," but rather, "my positions are common sense.")

My colleague, Eleanor Terrett of Fox News, even asked if he believed he was an ape after buying up 24,000 shares of GameStop to which he replied, "I do."

Anyway, to focus specifically on crypto: Kennedy revealed he recently bought 21 bitcoin (three for each of his children). 

"Bitcoin is the way to save the dollar," he said in response to a question about bitcoin as a possible national security threat.

When it comes to our current regulatory environment, which is not very friendly toward crypto (to put it lightly), Kennedy said the US needs transactional freedom. 

"We need sovereignty over our own wallets, transactional freedom and a currency that is transparent. We need to make sure America remains the hub of blockchain technology. I'm going to make sure cryptocurrency is regulated in a way that protects the consumer from deceptive schemes," he continued.

And the presidential candidate repeated (he initially announced this in April) that he wants to put the federal budget on the blockchain, but that’s not the only use case for him. He thinks it can make the country more decentralized and encourage both entrepreneurship and innovation in the US. 

Katherine Ross

  1. RFK Jr is ‘happy’ about Trump’s crypto commitment — Read

  2. Tether moves deeper into bitcoin mining with Bitdeer investment — Read

  3. Japanese crypto exchange reports bitcoin theft worth $305M — Read

  4. Peirce proposes DLT sandbox collaboration between US and UK — Read

  5. The investor’s guide to AI on Polkadot [Sponsored] — Read

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