Oregon Democrat Pitches Campaign NFTs in Crowded House Primary

DeFi developer Matt West says he's staying true to his roots with the Ethereum-based "Crypto Beavers" collection.

AccessTimeIconApr 14, 2022 at 4:27 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 19, 2022 at 8:25 p.m. UTC

Danny is CoinDesk's deputy business editor. He owns BTC, ETH and SOL.

Matt West, the former decentralized finance (DeFi) developer-turned-aspiring lawmaker in Oregon’s sixth congressional district, will sell a collection of Ethereum-based non-fungible tokens (NFT) to raise money for his campaign.

The NFTs feature cartoon beavers (Oregon’s state animal) drawn by film poster artist Paul Zeaiter. They range in price and rarity, with the most expensive tiers topping out near $5,800, West, a Democrat, told CoinDesk.

Whether they’ll make a difference in the battle for Oregon's newest congressional district is unclear. Nine Democrats are vying for the party nod in what has become an unexpectedly expensive primary race. One candidate estimated campaigns and political action committees (PAC) will spend $15 million by primary day, May 17.

Plenty of U.S. political candidates have tried NFT fundraising this election cycle in an effort to cash in on trendy digital collectibles. Some have layered complex mechanics while others veered into the absurd.

“There have been a few who have been successful, but generally they aren't treated with respect. They're not necessarily tradable. They're not mintable. You pay for it on credit card and on an alt-chain,” West said, referring to smart contracts blockchains other than Ethereum.

West’s NFT are “absolutely” on Ethereum; they’ll only be available for purchase in ether (ETH). It’s all in keeping with West’s true-to-his roots persona as a developer on the Ethereum-based DeFi protocol Yearn Finance.

“We fought hard to make sure that this is something that would resonate with the community,” West said.

Of course, the Democratic primary in Oregon 6, a new, slightly blue district in the state’s northwest, is composed of a different community entirely. By West’s admission, it's full of voters who don’t really care about crypto policy when issues such as climate change loom large.

West’s NFTs live atop the energy-hungry Ethereum blockchain. Asked if this fact could prove to be a campaign liability in a Democratic primary, West said no.

“Ethereum is going to be proof-of-stake very soon,” he said, arguing the switch will cause a “2,000-fold reduction in energy usage.”

The NFTs underscore West’s commitment to “progressive” crypto policies, said Zeaiter, the project’s artist and soon-to-be recipient of their secondary market royalties.

“Regulations are coming, and I’d rather have someone like Matt who knows his stuff” in Washington, D.C., shaping their outcome, he said in an interview with CoinDesk.

Crypto’s presence is being felt in the race for Oregon 6 with or without the West NFTs. Another top contender, Oregon State House Rep. Andrea Salinas, once voted to bar blockchain applications from all public services in the state, according to West. Another candidate, Cody Reynolds, is a crypto investor running a self-funded campaign.

But Carrick Flynn, who has no known crypto views, and whose dark horse candidacy enjoys nearly $5 million in PAC backing from crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, according to the candidates and federal donation records, is catching the most flak as a crypto stooge.

West and four other candidates lambasted Flynn’s benefitting from SBF money “at a time when the cryptocurrency industry seeks to increase its influence in Washington” in a joint statement Monday.

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Danny is CoinDesk's deputy business editor. He owns BTC, ETH and SOL.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Danny is CoinDesk's deputy business editor. He owns BTC, ETH and SOL.