Palo Alto City Council member Greg Tanaka, an avid advocate for digital currency, has received a $265,000 boost from a political action committee devoted to cryptocurrency in his bid to unseat Rep. Anna Eshoo in Congress.
DAO for America, a political action committee established to support candidates who advocate for cryptocurrency, made six contributions to Tanaka in May totaling $265,250. The organization's website states that it is mobilizes voters "in support of candidates who understand the role digital assets can play in leveling the playing field and creating a more equitable society."
These contributions from DAO for America are classified as independent expenditures and, as such, are not subject to the same limits as direct contributions to Tanaka's campaign. According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the committee used the funding for digital advertising, phone and text communication and direct mailings in support of Tanaka.
Tanaka is one of seven candidates looking to unseat Eshoo, who was first elected in 1992 and who enjoys a commanding lead in cash raised over the field, with about $1.48 million in direct contributions from individuals and political action committees, including those affiliated with tech giants Applied Materials, Varian Medical Systems and Lockheed Martin.
The top two vote-getters in the Tuesday primary will advance to the November ballot, regardless of political affiliation. The heavily Democratic district stretches along the coast from Pacifica to northern San Jose and encompasses large sections of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, including Palo Alto, Mountain View, Woodside, Portola Valley and portions of Menlo Park and Atherton.
In addition to Eshoo and Tanaka, the field includes Democrats Ajwang Rading and Rishi Kumar, Republicans Peter Ohtaki, Benjamin Solomon and Richard Fox, and John Fredrich, an independent.
While Tanaka remains well behind Eshoo when it comes to campaign contributions, the independent expenditures from DAO for America represent more than twice the amount that his campaign has raised in direct contributions. According to federal filings, he has received $119,000 in contributions for his bid to replace Eshoo.
As such, the independent expenditures give him a financial edge over the other two Democrats who are vying to replace Eshoo in District 16. Kumar, who faced Eshoo in the general election two years ago, reported $294,440 in contributions for the current bid. Rading, an attorney who had served on staff of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, raised $233,339. Both have received nearly all their funding from individual contributions. Rading has reported a total of $500 from committees while Kumar has not received contributions from any committees.
The three Democratic challengers have emphasized different issues during their campaigns. Kumar, a high-tech executive who serves on the Saratoga City Council, is a proponent of term limits in Congress who is not accepting any contributions from political action committees. Rading, who grew up homeless, emphasizes the need to build more affordable housing and switching to all renewable electricity by 2035.
Tanaka, meanwhile, has stood out for his fierce support for cryptocurrency. A tech entrepreneur, he was elected to the Palo Alto council in 2016 and has been a consistent advocate for business interests. He has opposed the city's moves in recent years to cap office development and he is the only council member who is opposing Palo Alto's current attempt to institute a business tax.
Earlier this year, Tanaka made a pitch for Palo Alto getting into the cryptocurrency business by establishing its own digital currency. People would be able to get credit for civic activities such as attending council meetings or volunteering. Tanaka said the new currency would protect the city against inflation.
"There's a whole economy that can develop around these city-specific tokens," Tanaka said at the council's February retreat.
Although no one on the council endorsed this idea, Tanaka has continued to espouse his support for cryptocurrency. At an April discussion with Cityroots DAO, a platform for cryptocurrency discussions, Tanaka criticized current legislators and policymakers for their failure to understand the emerging technology.
Cryptocurrency, he argued, "represents financial freedom."
"It represents sound money," Tanaka said. "It is a way to allow the general public to truly have wealth."
Read more primary election news, including information on local races and measures, in our voter guide.