The United States has a long tradition of businesspeople who look to sway regulations and political wills in Washington D.C. for the benefit of their industry. Whether in the form of individual lobbyists, non-profit trade associations, or think tanks, business entrepreneurs have a host of options to have their big ideas represented – typically accompanied by big checkbooks.
After months of strategy meetings and coordination with political strategists, attorneys, and Congressional offices, the business owners or entrepreneurs will choose from a number of options that may include writing a letter to a regulatory agency, holding a public hearing on a policy matter, or introducing new legislation.
The story of the introduction of the Crypto-Currency Act of 2020 and the supporters behind the bill last Monday involve none of the traditional approaches just described. As I had originally broke the story in December with an initial draft of the bill that was circulating in Congress, I was contacted by a PR representative for Erik Finman and Marshall Hayner, where in a conversation I had the chance to hear from both individuals how the bill had come to fruition and the next steps after the bill’s introduction this last Monday.
Erik started the interview by joking how I was the one that ‘leaked’ the bill. He described his interactions with various staffers in Congress as ‘nice’ and said he felt like he was starring in the movie ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’. He was excited that – as last Monday revealed – the Crypto-Currency Act of 2020 would be introduced in Congress, to be followed by them holding an evening press conference, reception, and open bar on Capitol Hill. Marshall led the discussion on the policies behind the bill and raised to my attention that he and Erik were both not attorneys and that it was their first time working on a piece of legislation.
The innocence and youth sitting around the table that was developing Federal legislation was striking. Erik is 20 years old – one year from legally being able to partake in the open bar he was offering at his own reception for the bill and five years away from being able to run for Congress, where the minimum age to serve is 25. When Erik shared he felt like he was in the movie ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’, the storyline involved him as a protagonist against the widespread corruption faced by Jimmy Stewart in the film.
For a week in the United States that will likely be remembered for historic stock market declines amid a global pandemic as a result of the coronavirus, Monday’s effort to introduce the Crypto-Currency Act of 2020 was undeterred. Representative Gosar (R-AZ) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives while in self-quarantine and the evening festivities were still held even though the D.C. Blockchain Summit – an annual gathering of leaders in the blockchain industry with policymakers – was postponed.
The reactions of the D.C. establishment that represents the cryptocurrency and blockchain interests was swift and brutal. The Blockchain Association, a non-profit trade association in D.C., and Coin Center, a non-profit think tank in D.C. focused on the policy issues facing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, both quickly took to Twitter to push back on the bill.
Kristin Smith, the Executive Director of the Blockchain Association, described to news outlet CoinDesk that the bill was ‘Dead on Arrival’. Their position of the bill was clear – it has no chance of ever becoming law. The Blockchain Association has been separately advocating for the Token Taxonomy Act, a similar bill in its comprehensive approach to regulations for cryptocurrencies.
Jerry Brito, Executive Director of Coin Center, tweeted how the bill was not serious and described how the bill should be opposed ‘on principle’. This sparked an immediate response from Marshall Hayner who commented on how he felt that this was part of D.C.’s ‘entrenched crony capitalism and corruption’ that he was fighting against.
In spite of the ad hominem attack, Jerry Brito has been consistent on the concept of avoiding the U.S. government from the ability to surveil over consumer transactions in cryptocurrency, whether as a new provision of the Crypto-Currency Act of 2020 or the recent idea of creating a U.S. digital dollar to combat a central bank digital currency from China.
None of this has not stopped the work of either Marshall or Erik, who noted to Forbes that they have received support from others in the industry and already been contacted by two of the U.S. regulators identified in the bill to learn more. For the nascent and dynamic cryptocurrency industry, this story represents some of the growing pains the space is experiencing as it grows bigger and the stakes get higher.
Ultimately, the overall concept of Congress providing a framework that will allow for regulatory clarity and the ability of blockchain entrepreneurs to operate in a business environment where the rules of the road are clear is a good thing. There is no monopoly on good ideas that Congress should pass into law.