Crypto Super PAC launches ad campaign to support Patrick Branco n CD2 race

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WASHINGTON — A super PAC tied to the cryptocurrency industry is spending big to support State Rep. Patrick Branco in his bid for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district.

Public filings with the Federal Communications Commission show Web3 redirect bought more than $100,000 in TV advertising to support Branco in its race against former state senator Jill Tokuda, who the polls show is the frontrunner.

Web3 Forward is a relatively new political organization that backs Democratic candidates who it says will create a favorable regulatory environment for “blockchain innovators,” spearheading efforts to legitimize and profit from digital currencies, such as Bitcoin. .

Federal Election Commission records show Web3 Forward’s sole donor is GMI PACwhich is a separate super PAC funded by major crypto players.

Patrick Branco’s campaign will benefit from outside money being spent in Hawaii by a super PAC representing the crypto industry. Patrick Branco for the Congress

So far, GMI PAC has reported raising nearly $10 million in the current 2022 election cycle. Its list of donors includes Samuel Bankman-Fried, who is the founding billionaire and CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange. FTX, and Silicon Valley tech investors Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, who are vying to be dominant players in the digital currency market.

Civil Beat contacted Web3 Forward for comment on its recent pro-Branco ad campaign, but did not receive a response.

Branco also declined to comment, noting in a text message that his campaign is not allowed to coordinate with outside spending groups.

“I don’t want to speculate on anyone’s actions in this race,” he said.

Branco, however, makes videos, images and messaging available on its campaign website for super PACs and other independent spending committees to use in their own advertisements. It even references talking points that would resonate with certain audiences, whether it’s Native Hawaiians or those who live on Maui.

He also included opposition research on Tokuda’s 2012 endorsement by the National Rifle Association, which he repeatedly attacked her on during the campaign.

It’s too early to tell if Web3 Forward’s efforts will change the tide of the election in Branco’s favor.

A Civil Beat/Hawaii News Now poll found Tokuda leading Branco 31% to 6% among likely Democratic voters, but 63% were unsure who they would vote for in the August primary.

While there are other candidates on the Democratic ballot, most view the race for CD2, which represents campaign Oahu and neighboring islands, as a two-way race between Tokuda and newcomer Branco. in Hawaiian politics.

Web3 Forward has spent more than $3 million on congressional contests so far this election cycle, according to a statement of external expenses by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of the candidates he has backed for Congress, including Jasmine Crockett of Texas, Val Hoyle of Oregon and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who is running for the Senate, each won their respective primary.

Neal Milner, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, said any extra money injected into the race would help Branco, but he noted he still has a long way to go if he hopes to win the nomination. due to his lack of name recognition.

“He’s not doing so well because he has the same problem as any new candidate,” Milner said. “People don’t know who he is.”

Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele did Branco no favors by waiting so long to announce he was forgoing re-election to run for governor, Milner said.

The Hawaii Board of Elections said mail-in ballots will reach voters by July 26, just two weeks away.

Milner added that Branco probably won’t have to worry about a backlash for getting outside money because most political ads don’t leave a lasting impression.

“Voters always claim to care that big money shouldn’t be in politics,” Milner said. “But I don’t know of any election here where that was a deciding factor.”

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