Sep 20, 2023 - Economy

Ramaswamy goes after regulators at crypto event

Two men on stage at a crypto conference in New York City.

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks with Messari founder Ryan Selkis at the Messari Mainnet conference in New York Wednesday. Photo: Brady Dale/Axios

Vivek Ramaswamy, a presidential candidate seeking the Republican nomination, appeared at the Messari Mainnet conference in New York Wednesday to woo the blockchain faithful.

Why it matters: He used his time on stage to reiterate what he called his main campaign priority, to reduce the Federal regulatory workforce using the authority of the chief executive.

Between the lines: Ramaswamy crafted his message in a way especially suited to an audience of cryptocurrency investors and entrepreneurs.

  • In the live interview conducted by Messari CEO Ryan Selkis, Ramaswamy echoed industry talking points in calling out "regulation by enforcement," particularly by the SEC under Gensler.
  • He referenced the SEC chair's refusal to answer a question in Congress about whether or not the second largest cryptocurrency in the world, Ethereum's ether, is a security.
  • Ramaswamy argued that it's in the interest of Federal agencies and their staff to avoid laying out specific rules, and instead undertake enforcement actions that allow them to keep the regulated community guessing.

What they're saying: "Ambiguity is the friend of the tyrant," Ramaswamy said from stage.

  • "The good news is this is something that a U.S. president can fix."

Calling Federal employees an unelected fourth branch of the government, Ramaswamy said, "The people we elect to run the government, those are not the ones who actually run the government."

  • Civil service protections don't extend to mass layoffs, he said. It's under that authority that he plans to remove approximately two thirds of the Federal workforce.

Separately, Selkis, asked him his take on legislation about cryptocurrency that's been voted out of committee this legislative session.

  • Ramaswamy focused on the House Financial Services Committee's vote to move HR 4841, Rep. Warren Davidson's (R., OH) "Keep Your Coins Act of 2023," to the House floor. The bill would protect the right to self-custody cryptocurrency.
  • Ramaswamy drew a connection to another of his policy bugbears, the third-party doctrine, which presumes a citizen gives up their right to privacy when information is shared with a third party.

Flashback: In 2021, Ramaswamy stepped down from his roll as CEO of Roivant Sciences, a company he had founded in 2014. During the discussion on stage, he said the decision pertained to political pressure on business leaders during the pandemic era of national protests to take stands on issues outside their core mission as businesses.

  • The decision was meant to distance his "increasing public engagement from Roivant's day-to-day operations," he said in a letter to shareholders.
  • Worth noting: Under similar pressures, Coinbase, the leading U.S. crypto exchange, told employees that political discourse would be stricken from the workplace. It offered buyouts to employees who objected.

What we're watching: Ramaswamy said his campaign will release a crypto policy framework in November.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the name of bill HR 4841 as the "Keep Your Coins Act of 2023," not the "Keep Your Keys Act of 2024."

Go deeper: Crypto gets down to work in D.C.

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