Everyone’s a crypto-native now: How DC learned to stop worrying and love the blockchain

Faced with heightened regulatory interest, crypto has become remarkably fashionable within Washington, DC.

Recent weeks have seen the return of conference season with a vengeance. Within those focusing on government relations, the increasing priority of crypto has been palpable. 

The Chamber of Digital Commerce’s DC Blockchain Summit on May 24, for example, featured three members of the House and four Senators as speakers. 

For comparison, only one member of Congress, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) spoke at the last in-person summit, in 2020. Emmer reappeared at the more recent summit, as did Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), the first Senator to hold Bitcoin publicly. 

But so, too, did more recent figures speak on crypto at the summit, including Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) — the latter of whom only recently signed on to work with Lummis on a crypto-focused bill. 

“I hear a lot of patronizing things about this crypto space — and I’m with people on the real concerns — but I’m tired of people not seeing the potential and value and genius,” said Booker.

That political popularity brings with it a market for crypto expertise, which has many who work with the government pivoting to crypto or advertising existing crypto businesses with sudden vigor. 

This trend is in part thanks to the recent executive order from President Biden, which mandates a wide range of studies from federal agencies. And for the time being, it seems irrespective of a bear market and the collapse of TerraUST earlier in May. Indeed, those events have also sparked talk of major governmental action

Deloitte, for example, has been a long-time sponsor of the DC Blockchain Summit, but this year became a top sponsor along with crypto-native firms BinanceUS and Dapper Labs. The big-four accounting firm hosted a branded lounge and a platoon of staff wearing pins that said “Trust is non-fungible.”

“We have been in this space a long time,” said Rick Rosenthal, a partner at the firm’s regulatory practice, told The Block. Only in the past year, Rosenthal said: “We’ve stood up a strategic, roped off, literally a dedicated unit focused exclusively on coordinating across the firm.”

Rob Massey, a partner at Deloitte’s tax service, put his date of entry into crypto at 10 years ago, as the firm took on a miner, a token issuer and an exchange as clients. 

“For the first couple of years, I think we were very careful about highlighting externally that we were engaged,” Massey said. “And now with the executive branch talking respectfully about blockchain and crypto — I think as more regulators engage thoughtfully and in a balanced tone, it’s easier for us.”

The Block has already noted how this trend has impacted the think tanks that set the tone for policymaking conversations. 

Chainalysis’ LINKS conference last week further highlighted this trend of government interest growing more overt — with some of the more traditionally discrete elements of the government publicly appearing. Those included investigation case studies from law enforcement agencies. 

Moreover, dozens of attendees wandered LINKS with tags that displayed roles not only at traditional government contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton and Lockheed Martin, but agencies including the IRS, DHS, and even the FBI. 

Many others featured “USG,” none of whom would specify which branch of the government when asked by The Block — though one bearded man wore a badge from the US Postal Service Inspection Service on his belt.

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