Big donor is senior exec for cryptocurrency fund supporting government regulation
By Guy Page
Becca Balint’s election with the million-dollar financial support of a shadowy cryptocurrency firm is just one skirmish in a big, silent war over who will control the world’s burgeoning ‘digital economy’ – traders, or government.
Heads up – by September 5, a U.S. Dept. of Treasury report on digital or “crypto” currency is due to land on President Biden’s desk, if it hasn’t already. In a March 9 executive order, Biden gave Treasury 180 days to recommend (among a broad range of topics) whether the United States should create a United States Central Bank of Digital Currencies (CBDC).
A CBDC would, among other duties, bring cryptocurrency firmly under government regulation. Biden’s executive order tips his hand – he thinks regulation would protect both customers and investors and mitigate national security risks.
At present, digital or “crypto” currency is largely unregulated. Early adopters included Libertarians and anarchists who wanted a whole kind of currency untouched and untouchable by the hands of government.
The free-market philosophy behind ‘bitcoin’ is much easier to explain than how it works. People with the tools and know-how may issue their own digital currency, the value of which is (somehow) established by an incredibly esoteric and energy-intensive ‘mining’ process employing blockchain software. At present the electricity consumed to operate and cool specialized ‘mining’ hardware is equivalent to the electricity consumption of the nation of Switzerland.
The People’s Republic of China has banned the use of cryptocurrency. President Biden apparently would prefer to regulate it.
Biden’s executive order demands that by October 5, Treasury develop a legislative proposal based on its September 5 recommendations.
That’s where Congress, million-dollar donor Nishad Singh of FTX, the endorsement of Balint by the Protecting Our Future PAC, and Balint come into the picture.
Nishad Singh. On July 7, Singh donated $1.1 million to the LGBTQ Victory Fund. Singh is an engineering exec for FTX, an established cryptocurrency firm that enthusiastically supports government regulation of digital currency. In its policy blog, FTX praises three current digital currency regulation legislative initiatives: “FTX is enthused about these developments because they indicate the broadening interest from the Congress in providing protections for investors in digital assets as well as regulatory clarity to the industry as whole.”
Large, well-established firms in growing, under-regulated industries often seek regulation as a means of setting favorable ground rules and discouraging potential competitors.
The next largest donor gave $10,000. The PAC then spent $991,000 on the Balint campaign. Simple arithmetic shows that the LGBTQ Victory Fund was just a pass-through from Singh to Balint’s benefit. In the final month before the August 9 primary, a plethora of mailers and advertising helped a surging Balint pummel Lt. Gov. Molly Gray.
Protecting Our Futures PAC. This PAC – ostensibly to provide oversight of lab work to prevent a future pandemic – is funded by Sam Bankman-Fried, an FTX founder and MIT classmate of Singh. Not only did Bankman-Fried’s PAC endorse Balint, Bankman-Fried and his brother Gabe donated $2900 to the Balint campaign, the maximum amount, VT Digger reports.
Becca Balint. In addition to seeking the POF PAC endorsement and accepting the two brothers’ money, the campaign also published on its own website almost verbatim the PAC’s language on pandemic protection – the ostensible purpose of the PAC.
POF PAC website: “We must establish independent oversight of dual-use research including enforcement mechanisms to ensure safety and security.
Balint website: “Establish independent oversight of labs conducting dual-use research of concern.”
This is simply Balint parroting for profit, Republican nominee Liam Madden points out in a recent op-ed. “This policy is something that was inconvenient to support before. It was politically expensive, so Balint hadn’t the courage to breathe a peep about it—until it paid,” he said.
President Biden has teed up digital “crypto” currency regulation for the next Congress. If Vermonters want to know how Rep. Becca Balint (should she be elected) will vote, the first place to look should be the regulation-friendly policy initiatives of her biggest financial supporter, FTX.
And finally – it is to be hoped that some reporter will ask Treasury Secretaery Janet Yellen about the CBDC when she speaks at Vermont Tech on October 1.