SALEM, NH – New Hampshire Republican Bruce Fenton is down in the polls, and many Granite Staters hasn’t even heard of him, but the self-proclaimed “bitcoiner” is doing his part to get people talking about crypto.
Fenton, a former Navy doctor who found success in traditional finance before embracing digital assets, served as executive director of the Bitcoin Foundation and made his fortune in crypto. Now he’s using those millions to run a long-running senatorial campaign in the state where “Live Free or Die” is more than just a motto.
“I had no intention of standing for election. I just want to be left alone. I wanted my own business and the government to mind their own business,” Fenton said. “That’s why I came to New Hampshire with thousands and thousands of other people.”
Fenton is running an untraditional campaign. He is self-funding his candidacy with his bitcoin fortune — he said he contributed 85 bitcoins, worth nearly $1.6 million, to his campaign — rather than soliciting money from Republican donors. He spends hours in audio chat rooms on Twitter talking about his political philosophy and educating listeners on digital assets. He did not speak with the Republican National Senate Committee, the party’s main campaign organizing force, even though it has traditionally been a major source of funding for candidates.
Currently third in a five-man race, Fenton likely won’t have a chance to compete for a Senate seat. But his campaign has managed to give crypto airtime in the run-up to tomorrow’s primary. And at a time when many financial privacy advocates are nervous about what they see as government overreach, Fenton’s campaign, like bitcoin itself, is in many ways a protest against the state power.
Fenton’s bitcoin experiment has caught the eye. At a recent candidates’ forum in Salem, a town of 30,000 on the Massachusetts border, moderator’s first question was about Fenton’s claim that US currency is just “pictures of presidents”.
“We have a very deeply broken fiat currency system,” Fenton said. “Bitcoin is solid and limited in supply. The US dollar is not. Its supply is unlimited and it is printed with reckless abandon by politicians who have no responsibility.
The message resonated in the libertarian-heavy state. Three of the four contestants on stage agreed with Fenton, acknowledging crypto’s move into the mainstream. Former Londonderry City Manager Kevin Smith even mentioned that he owns digital assets. Vikram Mansharamani, an author who has written on cryptocurrency and a conferences at Harvard University, also owns digital assets. He reported possess between $1 million and $5 million in cryptocurrency on a financial disclosure form.
Fenton, who calls himself a Ron Paul Republican in reference to the libertarian-minded former Texas congressman, was running his own financial company when he discovered bitcoin in 2012. He became so passionate about the original cryptocurrency that he later volunteered as executive director. of the Bitcoin Foundation. He then founded the Satoshi Roundtable, an invitation-only blockchain industry retreat. Fenton served as managing director of Chainstone Labs, a New Hampshire-based digital asset management and advisory firm, for four years.
The married father of four moved to New Hampshire in 2017 as part of the Free State Project. The movement aims to “turn the tide against big government” by encouraging people to move into New Hampshire in large numbers to promote libertarian ideas, according to its website. The non-profit project says it attracts people, “who are on a mission to prove that more freedom leads to more prosperity for all.
If he somehow defied the polls, Fenton’s plan for the Senate would be to “pretty much vote no on almost everything.” He would like to abolish the Securities and Exchange Commission, which much of the cryptocurrency industry sees as a thorn in the side.
“I would like to see their budget reduced. I would like to see their powers cut. I would like to see their authority reduced, or better yet, the entire agency removed,” along with 30 other federal agencies he sees as wielding too much power over Americans, Fenton said.
“Nobody wants to do anything here because the regulations are so strict,” Fenton added. “If something is a security – no one should care.”
Fenton’s offer focuses on a wide range of issues, not just what it sees as flaws in the financial system. But Fenton acknowledges that his background in bitcoin is perhaps the best-known aspect of his campaign. His candidacy has been met with skepticism by some New Hampshire Republicans, who note that crypto isn’t a major issue for Granite State voters, even though bitcoin has roots in the state. Libertarians have built a “Mecca of cryptoin the college town of Keene in the 2010s, for example.
Despite the cryptocurrency ties, Fenton hasn’t gained much ground, trailing far behind the two favorites, retired Army General Don Bolduc and State Senate Chairman Chuck Morse. That’s no surprise to some longtime political operatives in the state.
“I understand there are crypto enthusiasts out there. But the idea that they’re like a key part of the Republican coalition is laughable,” said Fergus Cullen, a former Republican in the state. Committee president in New Hampshire and a Morse ally. “Have you seen the average Republican primary voter lately? I mean, grandpa’s not very good at crypto. It just isn’t.
Fenton is far from the first pro-crypto person to run for Congress. Republican Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis said she owns between $100,000 and $350,000 worth of bitcoin in her investment disclosures, and recently drafted a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.), to revamp in depth how cryptocurrencies would be regulated.
Despite strong industry support for the sweeping bill, Fenton is unimpressed.
“I don’t support a bill like Senator Lummis’ that adds new things, new restrictions and new powers. I want to get them out of it completely,” Fenton said. “The only laws I would support are things that clearly protect that at the federal level, to say something like you know there will be no laws interfering with bitcoin”
Patrick Murck, co-founder of the Bitcoin Foundation who has known Fenton for years, viewed him as separate from Lummis or other crypto-friendly administrators.
“I think of Senator Lummis as someone who is crypto friendly and has certainly been a crypto advocate in the Senate,” Murck said. “But he’s not someone who somehow emerged from the community.”
A moment later, he said of Fenton: “It doesn’t surprise me that he wants to go there in an official capacity to change the rules.”
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