The blockchain industry is ready for one of its own to join the U.S. Congress, whether it’s Messari founder Ryan Selkis or someone else.
That’s judging by reactions on the floor of Messari’s conference, Mainnet 2021, taking place at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan this week. Yesterday Selkis said he was going to run for Senate in 2024 on Twitter, following a rumored subpoena served by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to an attendee on the event’s first day.
Mainnet attendees on the floor were broadly supportive of someone from the industry directly joining the political fray. The industry has already started to get organized, with groups like the DeFi Education Fund and the Blockchain Association already operating in the nation’s capital.
“I think we need someone who already has one foot in the future,” Daren McKelvey from Nodle, an internet-of-things network, told The Defiant.
Technically, there has already been one crypto senator. Kelly Loeffler served for a little over a year starting in January 2020 as a Republican from Georgia. She was the CEO of Bakkt, the Intercontinental Exchange’s digital assets platform.
Ganhuyag Chuluun Hutagt, CEO and founder of Ard Holdings, a conglomerate of financial businesses in Mongolia and former member of his government’s finance ministry, looked at the news on a global level. His company started experimenting with crypto in the last few years to drive customer loyalty and he’s seen it’s potential. So he put the idea of a crypto-native candidacy in global terms.
“I think what we’re seeing right now in terms of change in our lives and the natural resistance to that change is going to escalate.” Hutagt said. “It’s happening so fast that big institutions feel threatened.”
Most leaders in decentralized finance describe regulators as partners and institutions that they want to work with, but in a conversation about “the future of DeFi” on the virtual stage, Andre Cronje, the creator of Yearn, saw it very differently. He said that he’s talked to many regulatory bodies and he thinks they understand the technology well and that they want to stop it.
“If we want to talk about DeFi, we have to talk about weed. Just like I would like to congratulate drugs on winning the war on drugs, I think five years from now we’ll be congratulating crypto for winning the war on crypto,” Cronje said on the panel.
In a conversation with the Washington Post Tuesday, SEC Chair Gary Gensler said crypto tokens are clearly securities and his agency has every intention of regulating them. “We have robust authority at the SEC and we will use it,” Gensler said.
The industry has been asking for clarity for a very long time, however, and many participants are becoming frustrated that the agency is going straight to enforcement before clarifying rules for the blockchain era.
“The way I see it is it’s so critical to have politicians who are up to date on modern technology,” said Eli Reinhardt, an attendee who is in the middle of a project to disrupt NFT marketplaces. He said the industry is stifled without clear rules. “It’s still unclear what’s under the purview of the CFTC and what’s under the purview of the SEC,” he argued.
This disconnect spurred enthusiasm for a Selkis campaign, but some of the people we spoke to were concerned that the crypto spirit of rebellion might not translate well in Washington.
“[DC] is a unique ecosystem that I think outsiders have a hard time understanding,” said Lisa Cuesta, head of business development at an Ethereum scalability project called Aztec. “We need to play the game rather than invent our own.” Cuesta and others hope for a leader from crypto who embraces collaborative policymaking.
Jack McDermott of Nifty Comedians, a project that turns comedy into NFTs, said he appreciates Selkis’s openness and willingness to interact with anyone interested in the industry. He said that Selkis has demonstrated a welcoming spirit.
On the other hand, Selkis has a taste for playing the firebrand. On Tuesday he commented on the SEC’s reputation for being woefully behind the curve when it comes to tech. “If today’s SEC had been responsible for internet policy in the ’90s we’d still be communicating via fax,” Selkis tweeted.
That tone might not translate well in a campaign.
“I think he can win if he’s generally positive,” McDermott said.
“Ryan fits that mold of a winning candidate,” DeFi Dad of Fourth Revolution Capital (and a Defiant contributor) said. “Maybe this is a path that more of us should follow?”