The crypto candidate – it has a nice ring to it.
And Brian Forde, former head of MIT's Digital Currency Initiative, is making that his new title. The author of the White House memo on bitcoin during the Obama administration, Forde is looking to take his interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to higher office – California's 45th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, to be exact.
Forde said during the Ethereal Summit in Queens, NY, on May 12 that he is running for office on a platform of bridging the gap between Congress and the crypto community. He first announced his campaign last July and is seeking to unseat incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters.
First and foremost, Forde's campaign accepts cryptocurrency donations – a rare move among candidates for national office but nothing new.
But what's particularly notable about Forde's mission is how he plans to use the technology – if elected – to help his constituents get their voices heard by recording their policy preferences on a blockchain.
Speaking to CoinDesk in a separate interview, Forde explained the rationale behind this plan.
"If you're upset at your member of Congress, you call them, you fax them, you text them, you email them, and in theory, there's someone in the background, some intern – kind of chicken scratches on the wall – counting how people feel. Is that publicly auditable? No," he told CoinDesk, adding:
"I'd be the first member of Congress to adopt blockchain voting to hear from my constituents about how they feel on the policies I'm about to vote on."
Forde wouldn't necessarily hold himself to his constituents' decisions. But he said Saturday that "what I want to do is create transparency for the voice of the citizen, so that if I do make a decision that's not consistent with what all the votes said, then I've got to explain myself."
A 'helpful ambassador'
But what's perhaps more beneficial – especially to the tech-savvy blockchain community – is that Forde would be a knowledgeable representative that could communicate the industry's mission to sitting members of Congress.
Few people in Congress are technologically adept, Forde contended, a fact that was "clearly on display" during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's testimony after the social media giant's recent scandal whereby third-party companies were collecting user's private data.
This lack of understanding threatens to stifle innovation, Forde said – or push it out of the country entirely.
At a recent meeting with blockchain and cryptocurrency entrepreneurs in his district, he learned "their biggest fear is that they're not going to be able to start or run their companies here in the United States because the regulatory structure is very uncertain today."
Not that the politicians deserve all the blame. When he worked at the White House, he said, "you had policymakers who didn't understand technology and you had technologists who didn't understand policy."
His role, Forde said, was to be a "helpful ambassador."
A few years on, he sees similar communication breakdowns everywhere he looks. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have divergent approaches, he said. Meanwhile, states are passing their own laws, not all of them helpful – New York's Bitlicense, he pointed out, caused businesses to leave the state.
"People in the various areas" – business, technology, government – "aren't speaking the same language, and so they're talking past each other," he said. He offered this example:
"When people say 'blockchain not bitcoin,' I head for the hills, man."
Image by CoinDesk