RFK Jr.’s Bitcoin funding raises moral issues

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democratic presidential candidate, stood at the world’s largest Bitcoin conference in Miami in May and told the crowd, “I’m not an investor and I’m not here to give investment advice.” Then he announced, Accept campaign donations in Bitcoin.

What Kennedy didn’t tell the crowd was that his family had recently invested in Bitcoin, according to a financial disclosure form he filed on June 30. On the twelfth page of the report, Kennedy lists a brokerage account that held between $100,001 and $250,000 worth of bitcoin. Hours after this story was published, Kennedy’s campaign manager, former Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, told CNBC that the bitcoin purchase was made after the Miami speech and before the June 30 filing deadline.

According to Virginia Canter, the senior ethics adviser for Washington-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, if Kennedy is campaigning for Bitcoin while his immediate family owns the cryptocurrency, the situation could pose a conflict of interest.

“There is no conflict here,” Kucinich told CNBC in a follow-up interview.

Since the conference, Kennedy has continued to promote Bitcoin.

In late June, he tweeted, “Bitcoin is not only a bulwark against totalitarianism and the manipulation of our money supply, it also points the way to a future where government institutions are more transparent and democratic.” The tweet includes a video of part of his speech in Miami, in which he describes what he would be like as President for Bitcoin.

The filing states that the bitcoin holdings generated less than $201 in revenue, but does not specify when they were purchased. The record also doesn’t say who bought it or how much the family might have spent on their original investment. It also doesn’t say if they sold their bitcoin holdings.

Bitcoin holdings are listed in a section of the form that includes assets that may also belong to spouses and dependent children. According to the Office of Government Ethics, it is intended to reflect holdings from the “previous calendar year and current year to the filing date.” Kennedy is married to Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines and has six children. According to the document, late last month Kennedy signed the disclosure form and filed it with the Office of Government Ethics.

After CNBC made multiple attempts to obtain comment, the Kennedy campaign said hours after this story was published that “the investments did not belong to him, they belonged to his wife.” He is not involved in their investment decisions.” The campaign did not specify how long Hines held the bitcoin investment or when she bought the asset.

However, later Friday, a campaign official sent a new statement saying the bitcoin investment actually belongs to Kennedy. “I made a mistake in my last message. Mr. Kennedy does hold a bitcoin investment, but that came later. At the time of the bitcoin speech, he had no cryptocurrency holdings,” the representative said.

Before the Kennedy campaign commented, CREW’s Canter said ownership was “certainly current” as of June 30, when he filed his disclosure. “In a traditional conflict of interest analysis, Hines’ financial interests are imputed to him,” Canter said.

“I am really concerned that he is speaking at this conference and pitching this investment to potential voters while the family has a history of owning bitcoin. It’s like he could do the same for Procter & Gamble,” she added. “From a conflict perspective, I don’t think there’s any difference.”

Following Kennedy’s May appearance at the Miami conference, CNBC inquired whether Kennedy had crypto holdings. “Mr. Kennedy has no crypto holdings,” a campaign spokeswoman said at the time.

Kennedy said at the conference that if he became president, he would “ensure that your right to own and use bitcoin is inviolable.”

President Joe Biden’s administration has waged an aggressive fight against cryptocurrencies. Gary Gensler, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, told CNBC in June, “We don’t need another digital currency” after the SEC sued crypto exchange Coinbase for allegedly operating as an unregistered broker and exchange.

Bitcoin price has been buoyed lately, hitting a 13-month high on Thursday, despite headwinds from parts of the crypto industry.

Kennedy’s campaign has caught the attention of several wealthy supporters, even as he lags far behind Biden in the Democratic primary polls. A June Quinnipiac poll shows Biden enjoying 70% support among Democrats and Pro-Democratic voters, while Kennedy has 17%. Kennedy, 69, is the son of former Attorney General and US Senator Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, both of whom were assassinated in the 1960s.

Kennedy’s pro-bitcoin stance has brought him into contact with several top tech investors, including billionaire Bitcoin enthusiast Jack Dorsey, several of whom have offered their support for his presidential bid. Others include David Sacks, Chamath Palihapitiya and Omeed Malik.

Kennedy, who has come under criticism for spreading misinformation about vaccines in general, has promoted Bitcoin in the past. His non-profit organization Children’s Health Defense (CHD) is also interested in cryptocurrencies.

The 2021 tax filings show in the “Investments” section that the group had over $78,000 worth of crypto. A spokeswoman for CHD, which reportedly played a key role in pushing back Covid vaccines and helped raise Kennedy’s profile before he began running for president, previously told CNBC that the cryptocurrencies listed are not about “investments”, but actually about “donations”. The CHD website reveals that Bitcoin is one of the cryptocurrencies accepted for donations to the nonprofit group.

In April, before he began running for president, Kennedy seemingly tweeted an endorsement that Bitcoin was a tool to avoid the fallout of a struggling US economy.

“Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin offer the public a way out of the splatter zone when this bubble inevitably bursts,” Kennedy said.

In May, just days before he took the stage at the Bitcoin conference in Miami, Kennedy tweeted: “Cryptocurrencies, most notably Bitcoin, along with other cryptotechnologies, are a major driver of innovation. It is a mistake by the US government to impede the industry and encourage innovation elsewhere.”

A day later, he tweeted, “Bitcoin has been a lifesaver to people’s movements around the world.”

Comments are closed.