Think tank founder sheds FTX collapse, touts Trump cred in new crypto effort

Think tank founder sheds FTX collapse, touts Trump cred in new crypto effort
Donald Trump and Joe Biden will face off in what looks like the first ever crypto election. Credit: Darren Joseph
  • Prominent crypto lobbyist Michelle Bond has launched a new think tank.
  • Trump will pick the right people to oversee crypto, she told DL News.

Donald Trump has shown he can pick the right regulators — and that’s going to benefit crypto if he gets another term in the White House.

That’s according to Michelle Bond, an FTX-linked Capitol Hill veteran who’s just launched her new think tank, Digital Future.

“No one expected that Trump was going to win in 2016, and people were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I wonder who he’s going to put in at the agencies — are they going to be all these odd picks?’” Bond told DL News.

“But that’s not what happened.”

Trump-era appointees include Securities and Exchange Commission Commissioner Hester Peirce, former SEC Chair Jay Clayton, and former Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Heath Tarbert — now chief legal officer at stablecoin issuer Circle — all of whom had impressive careers in law, business, and government.

If Trump gets a second round, Bond said, “we’re going to get more well-established, smart people” to lead these agencies.

“It’s much more promising than if we get Gary Gensler for another four years,” she said, referring to the current SEC chair and crypto boogeyman.

The former president’s detractors — like Skybridge Capital founder and one-time White House communications director under Trump Anthony Scaramucci — argue that his retaking of the Oval Office will jeopardise not just the stability of crypto, but all markets.

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In a sprawling interview with DL News, Bond talked about crypto advocacy ahead of an upcoming election where it’s become a hot-button issue.

Crypto election

Presumed Republican nominee Trump has positioned himself as the crypto candidate.

The campaign of President Joe Biden is also courting the industry, albeit more circumspectly.

However, Bond — who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2022 with Trump’s endorsement and donations from FTX — said she gives little credence to Biden’s pivot after almost four years of a broadly sceptical administration.

“You don’t just get to jump on the bandwagon at this 11th hour, a few months before an election, and be like, ‘I’m the crypto candidate,’” Bond said.

‘You don’t just get to jump on the bandwagon at this 11th hour, a few months before an election, and be like, ‘I’m the crypto candidate.’

—  Michelle Bond

Bond said Biden’s crypto pivot feels disingenuous,

“If Biden wins, the administration is not going to say, ‘Okay, now let’s look at those crypto folks and see how we can help them,’” Bond said.

Could one not, however, level the same accusation at Trump?

Trump has demonstrated little interest in crypto and has called Bitcoin a “scam.”

And, his detractors say, he’s a mercurial opportunist who cannot be trusted to follow through on promises made on the campaign trail.

Bond said, however, that Trump has shown a gradual but growing interest in and curiosity about crypto.

“I see a stark contrast between Trump’s evolution over the years, and the ‘Let’s jump on the bandwagon’” attitude of Biden, she said.

“I’ve talked with him myself about crypto — he was extremely friendly, and that was years ago. We’ve seen him really embrace it now.”

Auspicious time

Bond, who was previously CEO of trade group the Association for Digital Asset Markets, launched Digital Future on Thursday.

The non-profit think tank aims to shape regulation, advise on litigation and advocate for fintechs — primarily digital assets and artificial intelligence.

It’s an auspicious time for her to be stepping into the crypto lobbying game, as wealthy crypto donors are splashing out on influence.

The industry has assembled a $169 million war chest to fight for a more favourable policy environment.

The surging lobbying efforts come on the back of a series of scandalous crypto company collapses — including the self-immolation of FTX, to which Bond had a front row seat.

The press has linked her romantically to former FTX executive Ryan Salame, who was recently jailed for seven and a half years for his part in the collapse.

It emerged during his trial that he and Bond have a child together.

illustration of Ryan Salame with background

Bond declined to comment to DL News on the relationship. But with her name linked to FTX, she could find it hard going on Capitol Hill.

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and Salame were prolific donors to both Democratic and Republican campaigns.

DC insiders say the collapse of FTX embarrassed lawmakers.

Bond, however, can point to her background in banking, derivatives, and fintech policy.

Over her 20-year career, she has worked as a policy adviser to the Senate, written bills that became law, and watched the rollout of post-financial crisis banking rules.

She has worked as a lawyer at regulators including the SEC, in private practice at top law firms, and at financial data giant Bloomberg.

Bond said the industry needs her experience, hence why she launched the think tank.

“Crypto is becoming more established, but it’s still a brand new industry,” Bond said.

“Having more people with the experience I have, who have seen the entire lifecycle [of policy] is extremely helpful to the industry.”

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