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What Crash? NY’s Political Leaders Are Still Crazy For Crypto

Despite a complete collapse in the crypto market, New York’s leaders are still making money from it—through campaign donations.

If the prices of all the big cryptocurrencies are any indication, now would be a pretty good time for any boosters of cryptocurrency in political office to clarify their previous support of the extremely volatile investment vehicles.

For example, since taking his first three paychecks in cryptocurrency, Hell Gate has found that Eric Adams has lost 55 percent of the cash value of those paychecks (if he didn’t surreptitiously cash out of the very asset he’s pumping up to fellow New Yorkers).

Eric Adams's Estimated Cryptocurrency assets — You want the red to be higher than the blue (Hell Gate)
Eric Adams's Estimated Cryptocurrency assets — You want the red to be higher than the blue (Hell Gate)

That’s not ideal for an investment vehicle, especially one that the Mayor’s Office told Hell Gate as late as last month is crucial to “building wealth in underserved communities throughout our city.”

Adams has had a close relationship to cryptocurrency backers—flying on Brock Pierce’s private jet to Puerto Rico, and speaking at several industry events.

But the mayor isn’t the only one taking cues from cryptocurrency—New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the co-author of a bipartisan bill meant to regulate the cryptocurrency sector, has also been talking up the industry.

Appearing on CNBC last week, amidst one of many sell-offs in the crypto world, Gillibrand sat next to Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis, as Lummis touted the benefits of crypto as an investment.

“I think it should be part of a diversified asset allocation,” said Senator Lummis. “I think it’s some of the hardest money that’s been created in the world.”

“I agree,” said Gillibrand.

The U.S. Department of Labor issued a warning in March that it had “serious concerns” about any plans to expose someone’s 401(k) “to direct investments in cryptocurrencies, or other products whose value is tied to cryptocurrencies.”

Gillibrand and Lummis have co-authored a bill that would impose some regulations to the cryptocurrency industry. Perhaps most crucially however, it would move possible oversight of the industry from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to the chronically under-funded Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and exempt small transactions from oversight completely, something the current SEC head said would “undermine” protections the government currently offers for investors.  

Indeed, the bill in its current version doesn’t even mirror what most conservative Democrats think would be sensible, and instead has Gillibrand setting herself apart from her party’s mainstream.

It’s still unclear why Gillibrand latched on to Cryptocurrency as an issue of focus, beyond her explanation that some of the industry is based in New York City. Last month, Kristin Smith, the executive director of the Blockchain Association, the industry’s main lobbying group, hosted a fundraiser for Gillibrand. When Hell Gate reached out to the Blockchain Association about the event, they thanked us and said “no comment.” Gillibrand’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

While donations from crypto magnates continue to flood into the coffers of New York politicians at every level, the biggest fight now is focused on the cryptocurrency mining ban, which passed the state legislature earlier this month. The ban would only relate to new crypto-mining projects that use carbon-based fuel sources.

While the ban would have minimal impact in New York state (local communities have already run off several prospective crypto-mining companies aiming to recommission inactive power plants), just the prospect of regulation has spooked crypto-backers enough to work on making sure that Governor Kathy Hochul vetoes the bill. Hochul and her running-mate for the Lieutenant Governor position, former Rep. Antonio Delgado, have each raked in thousands from cryptocurrency backers in campaign spending. Hochul has demurred when asked about the fate of the bill, while Mayor Eric Adams has made his position clear. “I’m going to ask the governor to consider vetoing the bill that is going to get in the way of cryptocurrency upstate,” Adams told Crain’s New York last week. “When you look at the billions of dollars that are spent on cryptocurrency—New York is the leader. We can’t continue to put barriers in place.”

While its value might be plummeting, and its biggest winners are scrambling for the exits, the hold that the cryptocurrency has on New York’s leaders appears to endure. But like any great marketing scheme, the industry still needs people to invest to prop up value while the well-off are making their escapes. Don’t worry, Jay-Z’s got them covered.

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