DAOs have been trying to buy all sorts of things—from copies of the constitution to NBA teams. But can they mobilize to buy a man's freedom?
Today, SuperRare user yfimaxi won the Genesis Collection collection—an NFT collection of art, journal entries, and other memorabilia created by Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht—for 1,446 Ethereum ($6,272,603 at today's prices).
The user who won is a member of PleasrDAO, according to a spokesperson from the DAO. "We had some multisig issues and had one of our members place the bid on our behalf," they told Decrypt. A multisig refers to a multi-signature crypto wallet in which several key holders must approve a transaction before it can be executed.
Ulbricht, who has been in prison since 2013, put his NFTs up for auction on SuperRare from December 2-8. The proceeds were to go to programs that help families of prison members and his clemency efforts.
In order to position itself to win the collection, the PleasrDAO community amassed a treasury of 2,836.637 ETH ($12,279,943) in just a few days. The DAO says its mission is to "free Ross, advance prison reform, and share Ross's work with the world and give everyone a unique opportunity to own a piece of it."
In alignment with that, PleasrDAO member Camilla McFarland wrote on Twitter, "All proceeds of the sale will be used to fund prisoner support and Ross Ulbricht freedom efforts."
We are officially launching @FreeRossDAO🕊, an open community aimed at buying Ross Ulbricht's NFT collection and funding the mission to #FreeRoss and fight for prison reform. https://t.co/TnDiYQR71X
Let’s save a life 👇https://t.co/q7lP2ztTWS
— 🕊✨ PleasFreeRoss (@PleasrDAO) December 2, 2021
In 2011, Ulbricht launched Silk Road, a dark web site where almost anything could be bought and sold using Bitcoin. The Silk Road was shut down in 2013 after Ulbricht's arrest, and he was subsequently convicted of conspiracy to launder money, computer hacking, narcotics trafficking, and running a criminal enterprise.
He's now serving consecutive life terms in prison plus an additional 40 years on top of that. The PleasrDAO Twitter account says it has seeded FreeRossDAO with 240 ETH [$1,087,173.60] to represent the sentence length.
The campaign for Ulbricht to receive a pardon began after his arrest in 2013. FreeRoss.org says over 457,000 people have signed the petition for clemency. Thus far, three U.S. presidents, who hold the power to pardon Ulbricht, have ignored the calls to "free Ross."
The DAO effort, though, is new.
"Typical crowdfunding lacks decentralized governance," Trippy Labs, a longtime supporter of the Free Ross initiative and founder of Entopic, told Decrypt. "A DAO allows for transparent management and execution of funds. This route will encourage more attention, involvement, and support from the crypto community."
In addition to being a co-signers on the DAO's multi-sig, Trippy Labs will take over as "Chief Freeing Officer" of the DAO post-auction.
The DAO says the NFT will be divided into ROSS ERC-20 tokens and distributed proportionally to members' contributions. The ROSS token will act as a governance token in the FreeRossDAO. Holders of ROSS tokens can vote on proposals and contribute to the direction of the DAO.
"We aim to create a structured entity that can act as a steward for Ross and his family," Trippy Labs said. "So that the burden of undoing his unjust sentence doesn't fall solely on those who are blood-related."