Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made his first public appearance as a presidential candidate at the Bitcoin 2023 conference today, sharing his own experiences with Bitcoin, warning about how technology is enabling government totalitarianism around the world and describing how he would protect the rights of Bitcoiners if elected president.
“As president, I will make sure that your right to hold and use bitcoin is inviolable,” Kennedy said. “I am an ardent defender and lifelong defender of civil liberties and Bitcoin is both an exercise and a guarantee of those freedoms.”
Kennedy told the crowd that he was first inspired by Bitcoin as a critical freedom technology after learning about how it was used to circumvent financial restrictions during the Canadian trucker protest last year.
“None of these lawful and peaceful protestors had violated any law… But suddenly, they found that they could not access their money, their bank accounts to pay their mortgages or feed their families,” he recalled. “When I witnessed this … devastating use of government repression, I realized for the first time how free money is as important as free expression.”
Kennedy has publicly expressed his support for Bitcoin since May 2023, acknowledging its separation from other cryptocurrencies and indicating that legislators should support its development rather than hinder it, as with regulations like the Biden administration’s proposed tax on energy used by miners. On stage, he reinforced his distaste for such regulations and he outlined the steps his administration would take to drive Bitcoin innovation in the U.S.
“First, I will defend the right of self custody of bitcoin and other digital assets,” he said. “Second, I will uphold the right to run a node at home… Third, I will defend use-neutral, industry-neutral regulation of energy… Fourth, I will make sure that the United States remains the global hub of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies… I will reverse the government’s growing hostility toward this industry.”
Finally, he said that he would look closely at “whether individuals like Ross Ulbricht,” the founder of darknet, bitcoin-based marketplace Silk Road who received a double life sentence in 2013, were prosecuted “for actual crimes, or as a means to crackdown on crypto.”
“I will consider pardoning them and I will act very quickly to do so,” Kennedy added.
Kennedy launched his Democratic primary bid shortly before signaling support for the Bitcoin industry on Twitter and announcing his Bitcoin 2023 appearance. His public stances on issues like vaccine mandates and climate change have contradicted those of most mainstream Democrats and he has positioned himself as a party outsider. As of this writing, he sits in second place, though trailing by a significant margin, to Joe Biden in national polling average.
At Bitcoin 2023, Kennedy clarified that he is not personally invested in bitcoin and announced that his presidential campaign would be the first in history to accept donations via the Lightning Network.
“We are now living in this age of turnkey totalitarianism … and our job is to try and build and fortify democratic institutions at the same rate,” he concluded. “The biggest, most important one on the horizon is Bitcoin, because it can’t be manipulated.”