Brock Pierce, the former child actor best known for playing the young Gordon Bombay in Mighty Ducks and The Mighty Ducks 2, has since played the role of entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a billionaire blockchain mogul. His latest role is now as a Presidential candidate where he is running as an independent in the 2020 campaign race. Pierce announced the news of his candidacy on July 4th, followed by an appearance on Fox Business where he fielded questions from Maria Bartiromo and Steve Forbes, Chair and Editor-In-Chief of Forbes Magazine.
I had the opportunity to interview Pierce for Forbes Crypto. Besides learning more about his policy positions, I asked direct and detailed questions about allegations from his past, including charges that he drugged former employees at a company in 2000 and pressured them to have sex when they were boys, as well as how Interpol busted into a Spanish villa, when he was staying with his other two business partners, only to discover guns, machetes, and child pornography on the property. Finally, I asked about his involvement in a conference where he spoke about cryptocurrency that was arranged by Jeffrey Epstein in 2011. Pierce responded to all my questions, even the one where I asked how it felt when John Oliver roasted him on television over these allegations.
For Pierce, after the interview I held and less than a week into his bid, his campaign faces another challenge related to a decision by the NY Supreme Court on Thursday that allows for further investigation into a company Pierce co-founded called Tether. Additionally, Pierce started the campaign having missed the deadline in several states; however, even popular Ross Perot, who ran in 1992 as an independent, secured only 19% of the vote, so running as an independent in the U.S. is a major uphill challenge in America’s two-party system. The full interview with Pierce is below.
Jason Brett: You mention Puerto Rico in your announcement as a candidate and spent a considerable amount of time there after Hurricane Maria. As President, how would you see your relationship and commitment to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico? Is it time for Puerto Rico to become a State?
Brock Pierce: The country is very polarized between us and them. We are forgetting that we are ‘them’ and we must find a way to collectively move forward. This is part of the journey of life when you are blessed with abundance. It’s not the money I made, but the difference I can make.
I moved to Puerto Rico at an extraordinary time. Puerto Rico arguably was the first state, the forgotten state. As a private individual, I had to ask why things are the way they are [which resulted in] the island suffering the largest blackout in human history. Rather than use fossil fuels, renewable energy and solar energy could provide a resilient power grid at the lowest cost to the people of Puerto Rico.
As a businessman, innovator, and entrepreneur, I saw the island of Puerto Rico filled with U.S. franchises. I wanted to remind the Puerto Rican people that they can build their own businesses. Approximately 80-85% of the food is imported with no food security while the Dominican Republic is a 100% an exporter of food. I spent two and a half years in Puerto Rico, which in many ways has prepared me for being President of the United States just as much as time in a traditional public service role.
Brett: Do you believe Puerto Rico should become a U.S. State? How would you support the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as President?
Pierce: Ultimately, that would be up to the will of the Puerto Rican people. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory that is a forgotten part of the United States. I hope Puerto Rico and other territories that are forgotten will benefit from my potential role as President or [even just] running for the [President of the] United States.
Brett: What is your perspective on Covid-19 and the state of our country during the Pandemic?
Pierce: Overall, I am very concerned about our collective future. I am the father of two girls. I am deeply concerned. I run as an Independent candidate because it is not about left against right – we are all in this together. Covid-19 has made us more connected as a society.
Brett: You also mention how you also are a Minnesotan. What were your emotions when you saw the protests start in your state?
Pierce: Minnesota is the home state where I grew up. I still have family that lives there. Black Lives Matters is one of many injustices in the world. George Floyd is not an isolated incident. The BLM movement has connected people in a way and is a catalyst for how we need to reform our justice and prison system. How can we train our police officers to avoid an ongoing catastrophic loss of lives? These are questions I will look to answer as President.
Brett: In your video, you mention what it means to be, as well as a redefinition of what it is to be, an American. What is your definition of an American?
Pierce: I am a proud patriot. We are the leader of the free world, the light of the world, and the capital of innovation. America is a symbol of freedom. Some people are not proud to be American today. I want us to feel proud again of who we are, where we are from. I want to convene as a nation for all of us to look inside and define who we are, what are our values and principles, and what do we stand for, so that we can define our collective selves. Let’s determine a new definition that would be something we can all be proud of as Americans.
Brett: Do you think the U.S. is behind on technology overall in the 4th Industrial Revolution?
Pierce: The U.S. is declining on a relative basis. The Industrial Revolution allowed some parts of the world to benefit greatly, including the United States. The 4th Industrial Revolution shows us the rest of the world is rising. China is rising. We need to think about the future of our quality of life and in a positive way with the concept of abundance. We must avoid the ‘scarcity’ mindset when it comes to the race to innovate in emerging technologies. Technology poses real issues around freedom and privacy that govern our nation. What we bring to bear as a people to the products and things we create. The United States still is the capital of innovation.
Brett: Former Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang mentioned a four-pronged approach to solve the problem of ‘Big Tech’ and our interconnectivity, particularly for children. Before sharing an approach to solve the problem of Big Tech, do you actually see Big Tech as a problem?
Pierce: We need to define what Big Tech is first. There are monopolies that exist in the world of technology. They have become ‘monopolistic’ types of organizations. Technology should be about choice and having options – now it feels like we have a limited number of options. We can’t really see and touch it. Data is the new oil. I am an entrepreneur with real-world experience who understands technology. I understand Silicon Valley. I recognize how technology is affecting all of our lives. Technology is just a tool.
Brett: President Trump said Bitcoin was made out of thin air and his Treasury Secretary sounded the alarm on cryptocurrency with respect to money laundering and potential terrorist threats. Our country has established a money transmitter framework where cryptocurrency exchanges are treated as money transmitters on a state-by-state basis. What would your approach be to the regulation of cryptocurrencies? Do you sense that for many in Trump’s generation and the baby boomers, that the concept itself is challenging to understand?
Pierce: We need to conquer the fear of the unknown. Bitcoin is not made out of thin air. When I hear that term, I think of a magician. Bitcoin is produced by computers, servers, and through energy consumption. The industry learned the hard way we live in a very regulated world. If you wish to innovate, you must play within the rules. As businesses, we must do what we can to educate our leaders so the rules can progress and we can stay competitive as a nation.I have spent time educating government officials, including those in a number of foreign countries, on how these technologies work. A number of foreign countries, most notably China, are using the technology as a way to export currency to challenge the U.S. dollar’s world reserve status. This status is a pillar that makes us a great nation, the nation that it is. The threat only gets bigger. The lack of regulatory clarity in the U.S. is causing us to lose some of our best and brightest talent. They are moving places that they consider safer to innovate in blockchain technology, such as in Europe and elsewhere. Talent flight is as dangerous as innovation flight. Instead of losing our best and brightest technologists, we should establish a regulatory sandbox that allows innovation and maybe gives startups a two-year grace period to operate as a start-up. The 4th Industrial Revolution that is taking place with our regulations stifling innovation [will take away our country having a] seat at the table.
Brett: In a podcast in 2014, you said you were excited about the possibility of digital FIAT currencies on a blockchain and how this could create global opportunities for the unbanked. As you look around now at the interest in what is an explosion in the growth of ‘stablecoins’ and the simultaneous research and investment in ‘central bank digital currencies’, and your role as a co-founder of Tether, which is now the third-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, what should the United States do about stablecoins? Do you support the U.S. in developing a Digital Dollar now?
Pierce: We do need a U.S. Digital Dollar. Tether is the most significant innovation in FIAT currency since FIAT itself. Never has money moved more freely in a peer-to-peer way. We want dollars in digital form as the rest of the world moves toward a digital economy. Allowing the currency in digital form will increase the demand. If China attempts to move with a digital renminbi, their currency could be exported around the world at an exponential pace. The U.S. needs to be participating in this innovation. Artificial intelligence is important and quantum computing is as well. We are falling behind on all fronts. We should be on the front lines of this technology around the globe as well as find ways of making use for these technologies at home.
Brett: Certainly China is a concern, but what about other countries, such as Iran and North Korea?
Pierce: I am rooting for the whole world. I am a humanist, rooting for humanity and the planet itself. Mother Earth, who gives us life, she needs to govern us now. I am rooting for every nation to peacefully coexist. We are all in this together. I am not sure how we could afford a major world conflict again. I am a fan of Iranian culture. I think the Iranian-Americans are a wonderful people. I believe in ‘Peace in the Middle East,’ that wounds can heal. I have spent a great deal of time on the Korean peninsula in South Korea. The North Koreans and the South Koreans are the same people. The DMZ [demilitarized zone after the Korean War] is the modern equivalent of the Berlin Wall. All that mattered was which side of the fence you were on. We need the ‘DMZ wall’ to fall and to allow families to reunite.
Brett: This country is largely based on Christian principles. You mentioned Mother Earth just now and also touched on your first introductory video by saying ‘I’m not perfect, God knows I’ve made mistakes.’ What are your religious beliefs?
Pierce: Well, I am a Christian. I grew up in a Christian household. My mother spent most of her time in church. She would take me to church as a child on Saturday morning, Saturday night, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and then sometimes on Monday and Tuesday as well. I am also a spiritual person. I am a student of theology and study different perspectives, where they come from and why they believe and what can create respect between two people with different beliefs.
I am a non-denominational Christian. The three largest locations in the world for Catholicism are Italy, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. I have spent time making regular trips to the Vatican and have gone to Catholic Church with my brothers and sisters. I identify in part with all of them. When I spend time with my Republican friends, they think I am Republican. When I do the same with Democratic friends, they think I am Democratic. When I spend time with Libertarians, they think I am a Libertarian. I am non-denominational and non-partisan.
Brett: To tackle the elephant in the room for our readers, the news of your Presidential campaign announcement creates a renewal of a ‘scandal’ in 2000 alleging you provided boys with drugs and pressured them for sex. There is also a mention of your 2002 run-in with Interpol where guns, machetes, and child pornography were found in the Spanish villa, and you and your fellow Digital Entertainment Partners were arrested. At the same time, through all of this, you say you have never been charged with a crime. You had to know that by choosing to run as President, these questions would arise and people have probably come to their own conclusions already after searching the Web. What’s your side of this story?
Pierce: As a Presidential candidate, I knew I would be placed under a microscope. These questions are long overdue. I believe I will benefit greatly from people taking a deeper look at this. Further research will indicate people are more positive on my candidacy. What you mention refers to events years in the past, when I was 16, 17, and 18. I was a kid at the time. These allegations are untrue, proven to be untrue. Each of the plaintiffs have all apologized to me and dismissed their cases. More information on all of this can be found on my website. What do you want to know?
Brett: In one case, the records show a settlement amount of $21,000?
Pierce: The lawyer refused to dismiss the case after working on it for years. The lawyer of one of the plaintiffs demanded out-of-pocket expenses in the amount of $21,000 which we agree to pay. Since that time, I realize this created a misperception of the settlement. The defendant, Michael Egan, has made lies, and we now know the allegations he made again were untrue- when he did the same thing in 2014, his own lawyer offered a public apology.
Brett: When Marc Collins-Rector, your former business partner who is a convicted sex offender, went to England to get treatment for a brain tumor and then renounced his citizenship to the United States, what was your reaction to his denunciation of U.S. citizenship?
Pierce: Rector had served his time when he left for England. I have had many people who come to me in these troubling times. I tell people who want to denounce or renounce their U.S. citizenship, that let’s not give up on America’s future. America is what we make it.
Brett: Was John Oliver unfair in his portrayal of you as he focused on the negative aspect of cryptocurrencies?
Pierce: Oliver is a great comedian. It was not fun to be the butt of jokes by tens of millions of people. It was great entertainment, of course uncomfortable at the same time when you are the butt of the joke. The cryptocurrency industry itself was the butt of the joke for the whole episode. These things can be damaging; however, after I stepped away from Block.One, the company went on to raise $2.5 billion for a total of $4 billion.
Brett: Joichi Ito, head of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), resigned after it was revealed that he and others on the staff of the Media Lab, which created the Digital Currency Institute, had attempted to conceal financial contributions from a convicted sex offender. From the Royal Family to former Presidents to our top Universities, my own take is many, many individuals had connections with Jeffrey Epstein. It strikes me that in 2011, you were invited to a conference to talk about cryptocurrencies that Jeffrey Epstein was involved in. How many cryptocurrency conferences have you attended?
Pierce: I was invited to a conference to talk about the future of money. I have spoken at hundreds of cryptocurrency events around the world. It was a great honor. I had no idea who Jeffrey Epstein was.
Brett: In terms of economic crisis, there was a feeling of absolute fear during 2008-2009 when watching bank stocks were falling and large banks that were on the brink of failure. It turned out companies like AIG had carried too much systemic risk that a taxpayer bailout was required. What as President would you seek to do to help avoid or at least curtail the impact of financial crisis’ in the future?
Pierce: Had we used the technology to monitor systemic risks, I believe we would have prevented the 2008-2009 crisis. The idea of RegTech and ways blockchain technology can be used will help all of our regulators monitor the economy in a way that will only make them better at what they do. I am also concerned about the amount of debt our nation has taken on. Not just college debt like student loans by individuals, which can be understandable sometimes due to a lack of financial expertise, but when corporations are taking debt out who are the experts at managing debt, this latest crisis is disconcerting.
Brett: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg did not graduate from college. As a fellow successful business mogul and billionaire, neither did you. Should this matter in viewing your candidacy? Is this a good example to set for Americans? You do not have a history of holding public office in any capacity. Of course, our current President did not and our last President had very little experience. You are over 35 and have been in the U.S. the required number of years to qualify to to be President. What makes you qualified to be President?
Pierce: I never stopped learning when I left school. I learn every day. I have been educated through the process of living. I am like a sponge.
Brett: Thanks so much for your time.
A video of Pierce’s campaign announcement, along with his official registration with the Federal Election Commission, puts him one step further along than Kanye West who announced his candidacy on Twitter and seems torn between the idea of running now or giving himself 30 days to make up his mind. West has been making public statements that make Pierce seem like a three-term U.S. Senator running for President by comparison.
Only time will tell if his campaign can survive past allegations, current investigations, and the challenges of running as an independent in a two-party system to have any kind of lasting impact. At least he shares one battle scar in common with our current President – Donald Trump too experienced an unexpected comedy roast in front of millions of people at the White House’s Correspondents Dinner in 2011.