“My first thought was he must have been hacked”, said Hoskinson, reflecting on opening an email he received from David Barrett, the CEO of Expensify, urging him to vote for Joe Biden:
Hoskinson later discovered that he was not the only recipient of the email at IOHK, but was rather a part of a bulk email blast sent to all of his company's employees. Hoskinson remembered using Expensify, a platform which provides companies with expense management tools, in the early days of IOHK, but could not immediately recall if they were still using it. He mentioned in a 10-minute YouTube diatribe:
“I don't think in the history of doing business — me doing business — I've ever received from an established company who is a service provider this close to election time, an unsolicited email asking our people to vote for a political candidate.”
He also said that if turns out that IOHK is indeed still a customer of Expensify, it won't be for long — he intends to sever ties with the company and find a new vendor.
While this case may be reminiscent of the recent controversy surrounding Brian Armstrong’s desire to purge Coinbase of political discourse, there are important differences. Hoskinson emphasized that within IOHK, he completely supports pluralism and freedom of expression. He said that he has never tried to prescribe a particular ideology to his employees or customers:
“I do not care if you work for me as a contractor employee if you are frothing at the mouth, communist, just crazed and dazed in the eyes — Che Guevara shirt and everything. Or if you're a hardcore libertarian, crypto-anarchist — doesn't matter to me.”
He said that he cares only about how individuals can contribute to the company. He indicated that in the past, some employees had reached out to ask his permission to share their opinions on various topics publicly, and he would always acquiesce. In this sense, IOHK is “apolitical”:
“And I will remind our employees, contractors and the customers who work with us, we are apolitical in this respect. We appreciate diversity of thought. We welcome people to share their opinions.”
Hoskinson also noted that, though he has sometimes publicly expressed his opinions about politics, he always uses his personal social media channels and has never considered telling his employees how they should vote. He further disclosed that his company has never made a contribution to any political campaign. He further opined that Barrett’s behavior may be in violation of campaign finance laws:
“I really do hope someone contacts the Federal Elections Commission about this because it does look like an in-kind contribution when a CEO takes their business mailing lists and decides to use those lists to support a particular political candidate. I am not a Trump supporter. On many occasions I've called him the Orange Goblin, nor am I a Biden supporter.”
For Barrett, this was not an ad hoc decision driven by fleeting emotions. The night before, he gave an extensive interview to Protocol to justify his stance:
“I think that it's easy to justify standing aside. But I believe standing aside and doing nothing is an endorsement of the status quo. It's not choosing not to participate, it is taking a stand in defense of the status quo. "
Though Hoskinson and Barrett may strongly disagree on the topic, both would appear to disagree with Armstrong’s brand of apoliticism.