At the heart of the cryptocurrency world, where trust seems as elusive as true love, we find a story reminiscent of the unconventional connections formed on reality show Love is Blind.
Enter Sam Bankman-Fried, not as the protagonist, but as a villain who orchestrated a romance with Congress filled with deceit, betrayal and broken promises. His story will likely end in tragedy, while he spends much of his remaining days in his pod of a prison cell. But how did we get here?
One night in the spring of 2022, I was at a gathering of lobbyists, PR experts and DC insiders. As I approached the bathroom line, I noticed a gaggle of Washington types trying to capture 30 seconds with the alleged crypto billionaire boy genius. SBF, with his non-threatening demeanor, enticed those who believed in the potential of his effective altruism approach, much like contestants seeking true love without first seeing their partners. But behind his disheveled exterior lurked a villain, ready to betray their trust.
As months passed, SBF played his role with finesse, making frequent appearances on Capitol Hill. Much like Love is Blind contestants navigating a labyrinth of emotions to find a spouse at any cost, he deftly charmed those he encountered, all while concealing his true intentions.
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The hallways of Congress became his stage; in nearly five years of working on Capitol Hill, I never encountered a CEO, in any industry, who spent as much time as he did personally lobbying members of Congress.
In SBF’s narrative, he cast himself as the hero — the “main character” — in a story where his face adorned magazine covers, senators eagerly listened to his words, and he basked in the perception of being an altruistic leader. Yet, his true aim was to manipulate and deceive, much like the deceit that unfolds week to week on every reality dating show.
Usually, tech and finance executives are viewed warily on Capitol Hill by both political parties. It wasn’t too long ago that Mark Zuckerberg faced off in front of the very same committees SBF would later appear before.
The reception was night and day. Zuckerberg had no friends on the Hill. SBF, on the other hand, had members vying for his attention however they could. The script was flipped, something that is rare to see in Congress these days. And this dynamic was apparent even before the campaign donations started flowing in.
SBF believed that the halls of Congress were merely another level in his game, a realm where money and celebrities could buy political influence to prop up his soon-to-be crumbling empire. But, like the participants of Love is Blind discovering harsh truths about their partners way too late, SBF faced the consequences while he attempted to manipulate Congress for his gain.
The fallout from the FTX empire exposed the truth of Sam Bankman-Fried. Many policymakers were left tarnished, having accepted donations from an alleged fraudster. Yet, throughout this turmoil, a faction in Congress remained committed to protecting the crypto industry, ensuring a safer environment, much like those contestants who sought genuine connections even after heart-wrenching revelations.
This winter marks a pivotal moment for Congress. SBF’s game of manipulation failed, leaving a choice for many in Congress: Is it time to act on crypto regulations or should they keep kicking the can down the road? With millions of consumers harmed by scams, businesses not knowing what they can or can’t do, and other G7 nations moving forward with regulatory frameworks despite the media frenzy on crypto, the answer should be: act now!
It’s time for Congress to embrace the role of the adults in the room, setting aside the illusionary world SBF had created. Just as in Love is Blind, a cloud of deception must not justify inaction.
Justice will be served to SBF, and Congress will move forward. Like many of the lessons learned by viewers and participants of reality TV shows, failing to fall in love doesn’t mean one’s search is over. The same should be for Congress.
Just because Congress fell in love with the wrong guy doesn’t mean they should give up on the prospect of legislating crypto towards a happier ending.