Shannon Bray, a U.S. Navy veteran and North Carolinian, is hoping the second time — and one particularly frothy memecoin — will be the charm for his political aspirations.
Previously, Bray ran for Senate in 2020 with no luck. This time around, the 49 year-old dyed-in-the-wool Libertarian honed his agenda to focus on cryptocurrencies — with the Shiba Inu digital coin taking center stage, and China's crypto mining crackdown the impetus for his ambitions. He's part of a vanguard of crypto-friendly politicians looking to use the booming digital coin movement to forge a path to Washington.
Bray's call to politics hit him back in 2019, the candidate explained to Yahoo Finance in a recent interview. He'd been furloughed for two months as a cyber security analyst at the U.S. Department of Defense thanks to what turned out to be the longest government shutdown in the country's history.
Fed up and "not getting paid," Bray discovered a North Carolina seat in the Senate had opened up and, temporarily without work, thought he might be able to fix the inefficiencies of government at the legislative level.
In what he referred to as an "eye opening" experience that got him "hooked" on politics, Bray received a paltry 3% of the vote in an attempt to challenge Republican incumbent Thom Tillis. While some might have deemed it "an embarrassing loss" (his exact words), Bray maintained that his first act of running for the Libertarian party kept open ballot access for his party's voters.
His positions include being anti-war, pro-immigration, savvy on cyber security issues like ransomware and adamant about curbing the size of the federal government — even as a worker whose spent most of his adult life working for the federal government.
Bray does not claim to be a cryptocurrency expert. But his status as a Shiba Inu (SHIB-USD) holder since September has made him something of an overnight celebrity, which has boosted a donation he's made towards struggling veterans.
Bray knew about Bitcoin since the early 2010s. It wasn't until the summer of 2021 while on vacation with his family that he realized he needed to make the asset class a central part of his campaign.
"I had just put $30,000 into Bitcoin (BTC-USD) and Ethereum (ETH-USD). I wake up the next morning and I'm down below $5,000," Bray recalled. It was June 2021, when the Chinese government had banned Bitcoin mining, causing the entire market to spiral.
In time, Bray learned that the miners would recover by setting up shop in the U.S. Further out, he saw the price of his assets rebound.
"Once I saw Bitcoin bounce back like that I knew that crypto needed to be part of our politics on the a global stage. If China can't take it down, that's a beautiful story," said Bray.
Hopefully, we can get more crypto-representatives in Washington, D.C. to make relations more friendly for retail investors. We definitely don't like to see regulation squashing innovation."Shannon Bray, House candidate and crypto advocate
In the last year, a new genre of political candidates with a crypto focus have sprung up across the country. Just days ago, New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams agreed to take his first three pay checks in bitcoin in a bid to promote the industry in the Big Apple, and challenge Miami's growing clout in the sector.
In Ohio, Senate candidates on both sides of the aisle have signaled friendliness toward digital coins. Morgan Harper, an Ohio attorney running as a Democrat recently stated that Bitcoin and crypto might provide a powerful business model for more evenly "distributing economic power."
And Josh Mandel, a former Ohio state Treasurer and Republican candidate issued a call on Twitter for voters to start "standing up for crypto." Meanwhile, Matthew Diemer, an Ohio Democrat running for the state's 16th district, hosts the Decrypt Daily podcast.
Like other cryptocurrency investors, advocates and those working within the sector, Bray is concerned about crypto provisions in the Infrastructure Bill, as well as the broader patchwork of cryptocurrency regulation by U.S. agencies.
"Hopefully, we can get more crypto-representatives in Washington, D.C. to make relations more friendly for retail investors," Bray told Yahoo Finance. "We definitely don't like to see regulation squashing innovation."
Indeed, the cryptocurrency industry has been ratcheting up its lobbying efforts in recent months, a partial reflection of the vast fortunes being created by market players. Those include some of the word's top hedge funds and venture capitalist firms, according to JMP Securities Director of Research, Devin Ryan.
"It creates a cycle where well known, connected VCs and institutional investors add to the support of the industry, which to me serves as a counter balance to some of the critics, maybe even some in high positions," Ryan told Yahoo Finance in a recent interview.
"I'm looking for the people who don't normally go to political rallies. The people who may be into crypto but have zero passion for politics, whatsoever," Bray said in an interview, clad in a Shiba Inu hoodie. "Those are the people I'm trying to reach now. The best way to reach them is through Twitter or anything online, where people are trading," he added.
The SHIB Army rallying cry
Bray bought Dogecoin and Shiba Inu coin on a lark at first earlier in the year, but things got more serious on September 11, when he plunked down $700 into Shiba Inu coin (a little over 100 million SHIB). He intended to donate all of the funds towards struggling veterans if the coin's price ever crossed above the 1 cent threshold.
I have purchased 100 million $shib tokens and will donate the entire wallet to shelter our homeless veterans once the value is at or above $.01.
It may never happen, but what if it does. 🗽
Do you have a "what if" dream? $shib it.
— Shannon Bray (@ShannonBrayNC) September 11, 2021
Catching wind of the project, an online community of self-proclaimed "SHIB ARMY" members quickly boosted the cause across social media. Shortly after posting his donation over Twitter, two other investors sent SHIB tokens to the wallet, causing the donation to triple.
"It kind of went viral from there and a week later, SHIB started taking off," Bray recalled.
From the middle of September to late October, the price of SHIB ascended, and with it, Bray's online following grew. By October 27, the dog-themed token's price reached an all time high, gaining more than 1000% in value. Since that high, the price has crashed settling at a loss of 36% below the peak.
Since making his SHIB donation public, Bray's Twitter following has surged to over 35,000. Based on conversations he's had over Twitter, his followers live all over the world from the U.S. and India to Brazil and Argentina — and are true believers in Shiba Inu.
"There's a lot of hope. They're hoping to see it reach a dollar. I don't really see that happening, but I guess the dream is alive," he admitted.
The supply of Shiba Inu coins is so vast, its price per token at its all time high two weeks ago still amounted to less than one ten thousandth of a penny. Bray claimed the cryptocurrency's microscopic value per token is appealing to people with less disposable income to invest in the cryptocurrency markets.
Critics say that the memecoin's price has nothing to do with its potential upside. Nonetheless, the perception - false or not - of its affordability appears to have played into SHIB's investing momentum.
But given its excessive supply of coins, SHIB's market capitalization would need to be orders of magnitude greater than the entire cryptocurrency market to meet such a lofty goal.
On the other hand, Bray's intention behind his donation — to raise awareness for the high rates of U.S. veteran homelessness and suicide — has drawn praise. The week before he created his SHIB donation, he'd discovered a friend he'd previously served alongside in the Navy had taken his own life after dealing with homelessness.
"I got busy. I hadn't talked to him in a couple of years ... It just really ate me up," said Bray.
A Military Times story published earlier this year states that Veterans make up 6% of the country's population, but 8% of its homeless population. Veterans with a history of homelessness are more than 5 times as likely to take their own lives than those who aren't, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Services.
The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) shows that 6,291 U.S. veterans died by suicide in 2019, a rate of 31.6 per 100,000 people compared to the national average of 18. While the number declined significantly from 2018 to 2019, since the pandemic, the rate of veteran homelessness is anticipated to have risen.
The gains in Bray's SHIB donation since September 11 now places the donations value around $16,000 as of the time of writing. Two weeks ago, when the SHIB price passed Dogecoin (DOGE-USD), peaking at its all time high, the funds amounted to $26,788.
Bray has decided to tack back on his less realistic commitment to donate the funds once SHIB crosses the penny line. Now he plans to donate the funds during his upcoming congressional election cycle.
"I'm hoping in a year, it will be substantial," he said.
Editor's note: Shannon Bray is a Senate Candidate for North Carolina
David Hollerith covers cryptocurrency for Yahoo Finance. Follow him @dshollers.