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A DAO Is Trying to Buy the US Constitution—Again

It’s history repeating itself.

3 min read
U.S. Constitution. Image: Shutterstock

One cold autumn night but a year ago, a group of crypto enthusiasts gathered online to pool their funds together in an effort to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution under the collective name of “ConstitutionDAO.” 

They failed, losing to billionaire Ken Griffin, who bought it for a staggering $43.2 million.

Now a year later, another DAO—or decentralized autonomous organization—has formed, with plans to recreate the original ConstitutionDAO’s efforts to purchase a different copy of the historic document that’s up for auction December 13.

Its name? ConstitutionDAO2.

While ConstitutionDAO2 sounds like a bad movie sequel, the group assured its followers via Twitter late Tuesday night that it will “come back stronger, faster, and smarter” this time around. On its website, the DAO also refers to itself as “UnumDAO.”

In November, Sotheby’s announced it would auction the second of two private copies of the first printing of the Constitution. (Griffin purchased the first one, the Goldman Constitution, last year.) The copy up for auction this year has not been sold in over 125 years, says Sotheby’s, and is worth approximately $20 million to $30 million. In the 19th Century, the copy was given as a gift to Adrian Van Sinderen, who later became a prominent book collector.

In a public Twitter poll, 83% of respondents said they wanted a DAO to try again to purchase a copy of the document.

How will it be different this time? ConstitutionDAO2 says it will offer donators the ability to make private Ethereum (ETH) donations, thus making it more difficult for competing bidders to know the total funding pool and bid slightly above that value. But that’s not exactly a foolproof plan.

A lot has changed in crypto since the last time a DAO tried to buy a copy of the constitution. Crypto winter has set in, Bitcoin and Ethereum prices have collapsed, startups have gone bankrupt, and investors are down bad. Raising ETH in this market for such an audacious goal will likely be even more difficult than it was a year ago. Nevertheless, ConstitutionDAO2 is pressing forward.

“ConstitutionDAO2 wants to buy the printing from Sotheby’s so that it can start a collection of civic artifacts that are totally run by the people,” the DAO wrote on Twitter. “We are going to teach the world about democratic innovations found in history and on web3.”

It’s also worth noting that the original ConstitutionDAO never really went away—it just rebranded to PeopleDAO after it lost, very publicly, to Griffin. As a part of its original structuring, the ConstitutionDAO launched a governance token, PEOPLE, which is up 12% in the past two weeks but still down 87% from its all-time high of roughly $0.18 last December, per CoinGecko data

ConstitutionDAO also faced some challenges when it realized that in order to refund its contributors, those individuals would have to pay the cost of Ethereum gas fees and thus would not receive full refunds. 

It’s currently unclear to what extent ConstitutionDAO2 is made up of original ConstitutionDAO participants, but the sequel DAO says it has the support of many other crypto-focused groups, such as Aztec, LanguageDAO, Nucleo, MoonDAO, 404DAO, Empire DAO, the funding platform Juice Box, and the original PeopleDAO, to name a few.

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