Miami’s Mayor Went All In on Cryptocurrency. His Constituents Suffered.

In 2021, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez mentioned that Sam Bankman-Fried, the now disgraced former head of FTX, embodied the “ethos of Miami.”

Suarez was inadvertently proper.

Miami is a sunny place for shady individuals and Bankman-Fried’s shameless grift does certainly embody the corruption that’s so commonplace within the metropolis — a spot the place con artists, corrupt politicians, drug traffickers, cash launderers, and all kinds of white-collar criminals make their houses. Crypto scammers love Miami, hiding their greed and grift behind empty libertarian rhetoric a few battle towards central banking and promising to determine a parallel monetary system accessible to those that are “unbanked,” regardless of by no means offering a compelling case for the way it may work.

These of us who reside in Miami know that severe points plague town. It has probably the most unaffordable housing market within the nation, skyrocketing lease prices, a crumbling property insurance market, continual flooding even when there’s a gentle storm, a whole lack of public transportation and uncontrolled corruption.

As a substitute of addressing any of those precise issues, Suarez has been singularly targeted on pushing cryptocurrency to the detriment of his different obligations as mayor. At a latest Bitcoin convention hosted in Miami Seaside, Suarez articulated what he known as the “imaginative and prescient for Bitcoin America 2024,” calling for the subsequent president of the US to be “pro-Bitcoin” and for Bitcoin to be built-in into “each facet of our society.” None of it has aged properly after the latest spectacular collapse of the crypto market wherein about $2 trillion in wealth has been wiped out, doubtless sending Suarez idol Bankman-Fried to jail and decimating the life financial savings of working individuals.

Suarez is the epitome of what it might be prefer to have a stereotypical Miami bro in workplace. He’s the son of former Miami Mayor and County Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who might be most well-known for being faraway from workplace after being related to a voter fraud scheme. In 2009, Suarez, who’s a registered Republican, adopted in his father’s footsteps and utilizing his household connections and title recognition, was elected to the Metropolis of Miami Fee.

After serving largely unremarkably as a commissioner, he adopted in his father’s footsteps in 2017 to change into the mayor of Miami. Since then, Suarez has ridden the increase of the cryptocurrency market to a kind of nationwide prominence, positioning himself because the “most Bitcoin pleasant” politician in the US and proposing outlandish plans to fund town’s actions via crypto mining. Whereas on the “Decrypt Media” podcast with Bankman-Fried, Suarez embodied the cavalier angle of Miami politicians — who are sometimes keen to do the bidding of anybody throwing a considerable amount of cash their means with the intention to skirt guidelines and rules.

Through the interview, Bankman-Fried was requested how FTX may presumably and fairly be given a 19-year contract to the naming rights for the world the place the Miami Warmth play. Suarez himself wasn’t a direct determination maker within the deal, as the world is owned by Miami-Dade County and he’s mayor of the smaller Metropolis of Miami, however he inspired its approval. Bankman-Fried fumbled via a very gibberish non-answer claiming that FTX made a lot cash in a single yr that they don’t want to fret concerning the different 18 years. Suarez was fully distracted by his cellphone the entire time, and regarded up simply on the finish to provide a double-thumbs up. It was really past parody.

This isn’t the one time that Suarez propped up Sam Bankman-Fried. The Miami New Occasions documented a number of cases wherein Suarez showered the disgraced former billionaire with sycophantic reward in efforts to deliver additional FTX investments to Miami. After FTX secured the naming rights for the Warmth Enviornment, Bankman-Fried ridiculously tweeted that he regarded ahead to bringing “peace and prosperity” to Miami residents, prompting Suarez to weigh in.

“Overjoyed that your dedication to our neighborhood advances our efforts to be probably the most crypto pleasant metropolis on the planet. All I have to do now’s determine tips on how to put the crimson laser dots on my eyes,” Suarez responded.

In one other on-line alternate that has not aged properly, Suarez welcomed FTX after Bankman-Fried introduced the corporate can be transferring its headquarters to Miami.

“[FTX] is likely one of the most modern corporations on the planet and also you [SBF] are some of the modern technologists. Welcome HOME!” Suarez tweeted.

On high of his vocal help of Bankman-Fried and his ridiculous announcement of a Bitcoin political platform, Suarez additionally made ludicrous guarantees to Miami residents relating to town’s personal cryptocurrency: MiamiCoin. Regardless of its title, MiamiCoin shouldn’t be really owned by the Metropolis of Miami however by an organization referred to as CityCoins, which proposed that when individuals minted this token, 30 % can be robotically despatched to the Miami’s digital pockets and the rest can be stored by the consumer per an settlement between Miami and CityCoins. MiamiCoin has since misplaced 99 % of its worth and is now nugatory.

Different cities like New York and Austin have explored related cryptocurrency partnerships with sketchy entities like CityCoins, however none with the identical degree of enthusiasm as Miami. That’s largely due to Suarez’s endorsement of the undertaking and his promotion of MiamiCoin to residents and traders.

Quartz obtained emails between representatives of CityCoins and Suarez’s employees displaying that the mayor’s media appearances selling MiamiCoin had been creating issues for the undertaking and will trigger regulatory crimson flags:

We have to get an hour with the Mayor for a comms coaching session on CityCoins and MiamiCoin. It’s nice that he’s doing press however he would tremendously profit from an hour session with Patrick on tips on how to finest talk the undertaking. There are a couple of regulatory wires the Mayor has tripped in latest interviews and it’s actually necessary for the sustainability of the undertaking that he’s higher ready. We actually care concerning the Mayor and his position in making MiamiCoin successful—it’s important that we get time with him as quickly as potential.

Suarez’s promotion of the MiamiCoin grift reached such a ridiculous crescendo that he really claimed throughout an look on Fox & Associates that the income generated by the Metropolis of Miami’s stake in MiamiCoin can be given “as a dividend to all of our residents in Bitcoin” via a “digital pockets.” Much more absurdly, he added that “if this factor continues to develop, there’s a world underneath which we are able to really run town with out taxes.”

Sure, he really claimed that this crypto rip-off — which misplaced 99 % of its worth — would result in the abolition of taxes in Miami.

One of the vital infuriating elements about this crypto rip-off is that Suarez doesn’t appear to have a lot religion in cryptocurrency on the subject of placing his personal pores and skin within the recreation. In February of 2021, Suarez proposed paying city employees in Bitcoin and provided to take his personal paycheck within the cryptocurrency. The plan luckily by no means acquired off the bottom, however monetary disclosures later revealed that Suarez solely held about $11,000 in cryptocurrency by December of 2021, a miniscule quantity in comparison with his two funding properties value a mixed $700,000.

Regardless of the collapse of FTX and the broader cryptocurrency market, Suarez reveals little regret for his position in legitimizing Sam Bankman-Fried and selling MiamiCoin. In an appearance on CNBC, he was fully unapologetic, saying, “When individuals lose cash, they need to blame somebody,” and “Loads of that is media pushed. Possibly in 6 months Bitcoin is at 30,000, or 40,000. Are you going to have me again on and say ‘Mr. Mayor, you’re tremendous sensible?’”

Because the 2024 presidential election cycle heats up, Suarez is definitely gearing as much as run for president himself. It’s exhausting to discern if he really believes he will be elected to the very best workplace in the US or if that is simply one other grift to elicit marketing campaign donations for different future political campaigns. What we do know is that his promotion of cryptocurrency appears to be paying off as his 2021 mayoral marketing campaign drew donations from the business, together with a $25,000 donation from former youngster actor turned blockchain mogul Brock J. Pierce.

Suarez is doing his finest to do harm management however on the finish of the day MiamiCoin, which was preposterously offered to residents as one thing that might have ended metropolis taxes, is a rip-off that misplaced 99 % of its worth and is now nugatory.

In relation to Miami’s ruinous flirtation with crypto scams, acclaimed documentary filmmaker and hometown gadfly Billy Corben put it finest when quoted in a Washington Post article. “A bunch of con males promoting imaginary cash and magic beans shouldn’t be that attention-grabbing of a narrative,” mentioned Corben, a longtime skeptic of Suarez’s embrace of Bitcoin. “However the reality is the federal government and its elected officers had been complicit in it and dragged town in it.”

That’s precisely proper. It’s one factor for cryptocurrency to be the interest horse of gamblers and speculators hoping, and largely failing, to make a fast buck. It’s one other for elected officers, who’re alleged to be good stewards of our public belongings and have our greatest curiosity in thoughts, to be peddling these grifts so shamelessly and unapologetically.