Political donations aplenty: North American Blockchain Summit event recap

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and many U.S. lawmakers were in attendance at NABS 2023.

Once branded for a Texas-specific audience, the North American Blockchain Summit (NABS) shook things up in 2023, changing its location and name as many United States lawmakers prepared for an election season.

Hundreds of crypto and blockchain enthusiasts gathered in Fort Worth, Texas from Nov. 15 to 17 to network, discuss mining, and listen to politicians and industry leaders talk about developments in policy and regulation affecting the space. Among the headliners of the event were longshot Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and current lawmakers, including Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

North American Blockchain Summit on Nov. 16. Source: Cointelegraph

Patriotism and U.S.-centered interests seemed to be the theme at NABS in 2023. Daily events kicked off with the playing of the U.S. national anthem on trumpet as a digital American flag waved on screen, and doors were open to exclusive fundraisers with many speakers in exchange for a sizable donation. In RFK Jr.’s case, the recommended donation started at $1,000; for Ramaswamy, $3,300 for an attendee; for Lummis and Cruz, $250.

In both 2021 and 2022, the Texas Blockchain Council — one of the main organizers of the conference — hadn’t hosted the event prior to a major U.S. election. Attendance appeared to be low in November 2022 amid a crypto market downtown and the collapse of the FTX exchange. In 2023, the event included QR codes linked to campaign websites scattered across lounge areas and calls to donate to crypto-friendly politicians prior to panels.

Speaking to Cointelegraph on Nov. 16, RFK Jr.’s campaign message seemed to be focused on taking Americans’ personal finances out of the control of centralized institutions and the U.S. government. He also commented on discussions in Congress about whether members should be allowed to hold certain assets like stocks and crypto, in contrast to average retail investors.

“I own crypto, I own Bitcoin, and if I get into office, I’m going to do things that make Bitcoin more valuable,” said the presidential candidate. “I’m not doing it to benefit my personal portfolio, but I think it’s important for the public to know that I have that conflict and that I should have to disclose that conflict at the very least.”

Related: Rep. Tom Emmer: Digital assets will be a ‘sleeper issue’ for 2024 elections

Once considered by many to be a longshot candidate running to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. president, RFK Jr.’s numbers in a Nov. 1 Quinnipiac poll showed him at 22% in a three-way race against former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden. While he remains controversial — he has repeatedly pushed misleading or false information on vaccines on the campaign trail and in interviews — he has many supporters among crypto users amid reports he gifted his children Bitcoin (BTC) and given his views on financial freedom. 

The NABS conference came roughly one year before the United States is set to vote for many senators, members of the House of Representatives, local lawmakers, and the U.S. presidency. Both chambers could be flipped or remain in the hands of the Republican or Democratic parties depending on the outcome of the election, which could affect how Congress handles digital asset legislation moving forward into 2025.

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