Brian Forde is the former director of digital currency at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab and served as a technology adviser in the Obama administration, where he wrote the White House memo on cryptocurrency. During his recent run for a U.S. House seat, in California’s 45th congressional district in Orange County, he received some $300,000 worth of campaign donations in bitcoin and ether, with contributions coming from crypto luminaries like Brad Burnham, Mike Novogratz, and the Winklevoss twins. CoinDesk once named Forde one of the Top 10 most influential people in the blockchain space, and Bloomberg Businessweek dubbed him “The Crypto Candidate for Congress.”
Despite all this, the 38-year-old Forde bristles when described as “crypto-friendly.” “It’s not being ‘crypto-friendly,’” he says. “It’s being on the right side of history. Cryptocurrency is a technology that’s going to massively impact our economy, our governance, our democracy, our society—to the extent that the internet has.”
Being on the right side of history brought Forde under attack during primary season, when one of his opponents, fellow Democrat David Min, released an attack ad claiming that Forde’s “big donors” were “bitcoin speculators that oppose cracking down on drug deals and human trafficking.” “These comments about my supporters are sensationalist, wildly inaccurate, and in line with my opponent’s lack of understanding of the technology,” Forde clapped back.
Ultimately, Forde received only six percent of the vote on June 5, coming in fourth in the open, top-two primary. (Min didn’t make the cut, either; he came in third.) “In the immediate wake of losing an election, one of the first questions you ask yourself is, ‘Was it worth it?’” Forde tweeted. “For me, the answer is an unequivocal, ‘Yes.’” Forde recently spoke with BREAKER about what he learned running for office as the crypto candidate.
“My campaign chose to accept cryptocurrency because how on earth are you meant to legislate anything if you don’t actually know anything about it? You have to live your values. If you’re going to legislate the internet you better understand the internet. If you’re going to ask questions of the CEO and founder of Facebook about that technology’s impact on our elections, you should know how Facebook works, you should actually use Facebook. What we clearly saw in the Zuckerberg congressional hearing was legislators asking about a company and a technology that they clearly didn’t understand because they clearly don’t use it.”
“One of the challenges that the cryptocurrency industry has is making it easy to accept cryptocurrency. For example, BitPay doesn’t accept Ethereum. I think more than half my contributions came via Ethereum. With Coinbase, it’s difficult right now for candidates to set up accounts. So two of our leading providers in the industry are making it hard for candidates to accept cryptocurrency. If the cryptocurrency industry wants members of Congress and other elected officials to use and understand [crypto], then it’s incumbent on them to make it easy for them to accept campaign contributions using this technology.”
“The dumber and the more ignorant your competition is, the more challenges you’ll have. [Min’s attack ad] said that I’m supported by human traffickers and drug dealers because I accept cryptocurrency. This has nothing to do with cryptocurrency, this has everything to do with, Are our elected officials and our political candidates going to lie or are they going to tell the truth? In this instance, when [Min’s campaign manager] was asked by a reporter from Axios if they had any proof that I was being supported by human traffickers and drug dealers they said [in essence] no. So he spent $100,000 lying about me.”
“There are a lot of people in the cryptocurrency space who aren’t looking for a regulatory free pass. They’re actually looking for regulations that define the rules of the road so that they can run their companies. What they don’t want is a lack of regulation, which keeps them from making a decision on their company. And in fact, our best and brightest entrepreneurs are leaving the U.S. and leaving different states around the country because they can’t start and run their legal companies.”
“This isn’t about appealing to cryptocurrency holders or those in the industry. This is about being on the right side of history for all Americans. You need to understand that if you think the internet is worth protecting, you should also think that cryptocurrency is worth protecting, because cryptocurrency will become as big and as important as the internet. The only question I have for you is, How long are you going to delay being on the right side of history? We can’t fear ignorance. We can’t fear stupid. And that’s what we have as relates to emerging technologies in Congress.”
Photo courtesy Brian Forde.