Hey, remember when technology millionaire Rich Tarrant decided to run for U.S. Senate? The year was 2006. Longtime incumbent Jim Jeffords was retiring; then-U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders ran to replace him. Tarrant entered the race as a Republican and spent big on a high-profile campaign that portrayed him as an Authentic Son of Vermont. Seven Days O.G. Peter Freyne dubbed him “Richie Rich” and uncovered the fact that Tarrant seemed to, um, live in Florida.
Tarrant’s candidacy was marked by heavy TV advertising and abundant missteps on the campaign trail. He ultimately spent $7 million on a race that saw Sanders edge him out by a mere 33 percentage points.
Well, Richie Rich is back — in spirit, not in the flesh. The new manifestation is Brock Pierce, the fellow pictured above. He’s filed papers as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Pat Leahy. Pierce also seems to be on the Tarrant Track in terms of likely victory. That is, snowball’s chance in a hot place.
But he should provide some solid entertainment value if he commits to the race because his story is so damn weird that if he was a character in a novel, he’d be completely unbelievable.
How weird? Try child actor, failed entrepreneur, pedophilia allegations, Steve Bannon (!!!?!?!) and Bitcoin billionaire.
Brock Pierce’s first career was as a B-list child actor. Here he is in the forgettable 1996 Sinbad vehicle “First Kid.” (20% on the Tomatometer.)
Practically the spittin’ image of the cartoon Richie Rich, eh?
The high point of his acting career was in “The Mighty Ducks,” which was also his first outing on the big screen. He also appeared in the sequel “D2” and a few more forgettable films. After retiring from the craft at age 17 (or more likely washing out once he lost his kiddie charms), he got involved in a wannabe Internet video venture that didn’t make it. In 2001 he launched an online gaming firm that involved, among others, Steve Bannon. Yes, that Steve Bannon. That venture crashed and burned amidst a pedophilia scandal that Pierce escaped by the skin of his teeth while his business partner went to prison. (The allegations still dog him to this day.)
Pierce found his true calling in cryptocurrency. He achieved a net worth of over $1 billion in five years’ time and is now chair of the Bitcoin Foundation. (His ascension to that post caused some to withdraw from the organization because of his connection with the aforementioned scandal.) Pierce made his first foray into politics in 2020 as an independent candidate for president. He got 0.03% of the vote.
Now he’s moved to Vermont, filed papers with the Federal Elections Commission as a Senate candidate, and set up a nice little campaign website — although he will only say that he’s weighing a candidacy. Please, Brock, don’t let me stop you.
Although he’s new to these parts, it would be wrong dismiss him as a carpetbagging flatlander. “Inspired by his family’s long history in Vermont predating the American Revolution, Brock grew up with an awareness and love of the Green Mountain State,” his website explains.
Yeah, lots of folks have an “awareness” of Vermont. I suspect his arrival has more to do with the idea that Vermont is a cheap political date — that he can swoop in and grab himself a Senate seat by spending what amounts to pocket change for a billionaire.
Yeah, we’ll see about that.
Unsurprisingly, his agenda has a lot to do with the benefits of technology. It also has little to do with the actual job he’s seeking. He writes of “a concrete action plan to grow Vermont’s economy and leadership role in America and the world” by encouraging “new capital investment, startups, existing businesses and thousands of high-paying jobs to Vermont.” He claims to have big plans for universal broadband service which, umm, is already in progress via locally-controlled, nonprofit communications union districts, thank you very much. Oh, in a nod to Vermontiness, he talks about encouraging sustainable agriculture and craft food production.
This would all be fine, if quite grandiose, if Pierce were running for governor. You know, the position that actually influences state economic policy. In the U.S. Senate, Pierce would have little chance to move Vermont in his chosen direction.
Which makes cynical little ol’ me think that he’s less interested in being an effective senator than in occupying a position of power and influence.
Pierce also praises Vermont’s alleged position as a “pioneer” on environmental issues, which (a) isn’t really true; Vermont’s environmental track record is nothing to write home about. Our environment is in decent shape (with significant exceptions) because of low population and a lack of exploitable resources, not because of Vermonters’ innate goodness.
And (b) this is a guy who made his bones in a highly environmentally destructive industry:
“Bitcoin mining is a process whereby new bitcoins are created and awarded to computers that solves a complex series of algorithms. …The process is energy-intensive, due to the complex mathematical calculations that must be completed to create each and every new bitcoin.”
Uh-huh. Unless Pierce is working to convert the entire industry to renewable energy and spends a hunk of his fortune in the effort, he’s an environmental phony.
Myself, I say a hearty “Thanks but no thanks” to the idea of Brock Pierce representing me in Congress. But again, I hope he dives into the race, stays in it for a good long time, and spends a bunch of money on Tarrant-style old-media campaign ads. It’d be good for a laugh, all right.