The Story of Me: Ed Krassenstein

The Story of Me: Ed Krassenstein

My name is Ed Krassenstein, and my story isn’t all that different from a typical 30-something, born and bred in America.  I grew up watching Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street, and MacGyver.  As a child, I indulged myself in action figures, video games, and any sport you could imagine.  As an adult, I have seen my views of the world change as I have gained more knowledge of people, fatherhood, and politics.

You could say that my life has had its ups and downs, but every downturn has been reciprocated by an even greater rise.  I say this, not as a businessman or an entrepreneur, but simply as a human being.

Many of you reading this probably have come across me on Twitter, where I have been very outspoken against our current President Donald Trump.  To understand my opposition to this man, you must know where I have come from, how I got here, and who I am.

I’ve never been a political person.  In fact, I didn’t vote in any U.S. or state election until I cast a ballot in November of 2016.  In the past, I have blindly supported a various cast of political figures, both Republican and Democrat.  I was raised in a family that was half Republican and half Democrat, as well as half Christian and half Jewish, so you could say I was not indoctrinated into any specific religion or political affiliation. I have also witnessed how the political landscape of the 80s and 90s has changed tremendously, especially over the past 5-10 years.

COLLEGE AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

I graduated from Rutgers University in 2004 with a major in Economics.  My goal throughout college was to graduate and then get a job for a financial institution of some kind.  Economics were always of interest to me, and it fascinated me how our economic systems functioned.  Throughout college, my twin brother Brian Krassenstein and I started up an internet business together.  This was before social media existed, and our business model was simple: Start up discussion forums on various topics, build up the communities so that they become self-sufficient, and then sell advertising space on these websites or sell the websites themselves.  To our surprise this business model was very profitable. Even though it took a lot of time and energy, we were able to build up several profitable discussion forums without spending more than what our part-time jobs at a local liquor provided us with. When graduation rolled around, neither Brian nor I wanted to get a full-time job, as we hated the idea of working for someone else.  What we decided to do, was go full steam ahead and continue establishing and building up various discussion forums and other websites on the up-and-coming internet.

This idea paid off, and before long we were running dozens of websites covering topics ranging from video games to automobiles, investing, and more.

FATHERHOOD AND THE BUSINESS DECISIONS WHICH COME ALONG

Fact is, I never really cared about politics until two big life-changing events occurred; I became a father, and I became a subject of a federal investigation. In October of 2013, my beautiful wife Whitney Krassenstein gave birth to our first son, and since then we have been fortunate enough to have another little boy in February of 2017.  Between the birth of both of my boys, is when I apparently popped up on the radar of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s HSI division).

Fatherhood is the most amazing thing that any man could ever experience. Not only do your responsibilities change, but so too does your outlook on life.  A little after my first son was born, Brian and I decided to sell one of our most valuable websites, 3DPrint.com.  This website was focused on reporting and breaking news related to the Additive Manufacturing / 3D Printing industry. In the 2 years that we had run this site, we were lucky enough to secure some tremendous journalists and editors who had helped it become the #1 ranked website in its niche.  The workload was crazy for me. I was literally spending 13 hours a day writing articles, editing, and promoting the site via social media.  This was on top of the trade shows, interviews, and advertising sales which Brian and I had taken on.  Keep in mind, we were running this website all the while we also owned dozens of other online discussion forums, which were being moderated by volunteers from around the world.  Brian and I decided to sell, in order for me to free up more time to spend with my growing family.

ICE RAID

Just as we were finishing the sale of 3DPrint.com, Homeland Security Investigations, a division of ICE, was investigating two of our online discussion forums (Talkgold.com & MoneyMakerGroup.com) which we had hardly touched over the previous several years.  The great thing about running discussion forums is that your community maintains the site for the most part.  For those unaware, a discussion forum is a website where people can visit, create new discussion topics, reply to others, and read information about the topics of their choosing.  Discussion forums were our preferred business model because the community builds the content for you, rather than having to hire journalists, editors and reporters. They work in a similar fashion to how Facebook Groups function.

These two discussion forums, which were just two of the literally dozens of forums we owned, focused on allowing others to discuss how to make money via the internet.  There were topics ranging from stocks, foreign exchange trading, search engine optimization, real estate, entrepreneurship, bitcoin, cryptocurrency, multi-level marketing, high yield investing, and more.

Ed Krassenstein and his family in Florence, Italy (C) 2018

ICE discovered that their target, a large Russian money laundering operation, was using both of these websites to help promote their criminal enterprise.  Basically these companies were buying ads from us, as well as Facebook, Google, Yahoo and dozens of other websites. They were also using our discussion forums to promote themselves as being legitimate businesses, unbeknownst to us.

Brian and I were tipped off that our websites were under investigation, so we hired an attorney to look into it. When our attorneys called the federal prosecutors who were working on our case, this set off a chain of events that turned into the worst nightmares that both of our families have ever had to endure.

Because ICE was still in the early stages of their investigation when we found out that they were looking into our websites, this, according to our attorneys, likely forced them to obtain a search warrant to search our homes, using an email I had sent to a fraudster years ago, as probable cause.  In this email, which I believe was written by me sometime in 2009, I had written the administrator of an investment program which had scammed members of our forum.  In that email, I posed as the administrator of another investment program, trying to trick this individual into giving up his/her real identity.   In hindsight, this was a huge mistake, as the individual who I pretended to be was actually one of the individuals whom ICE was targeting.  To them, it appeared as though I may had been this very fraudster whom they were trying to capture.

Brian and I covered the topic of the raid and it’s aftermath in great detail previously, but to sum things up, no charges were ever filed against us.  We were never arrested nor detained.  In fact, the investigators allowed us to leave our homes while they searched them.  After we had a chance to meet with federal authorities, they realized that we weren’t conspiring with Russian criminals after all, although the government still wanted to make claim to some of our profits based on the idea that part of our revenues had been derived from the sale of ads to criminal enterprises.  After a lot of back and forth between federal prosecutors and our own attorneys, we reached a settlement in which we would pay back some of the revenue we had earned from these Russian entities, and that money would then go to repay some of the individuals who had been defrauded by these criminals. In the end, we weren’t happy about the huge invasion of privacy, or about having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees, in addition to the settlement which we reached, but the fact that this money was being returned to some individuals who had been defrauded, at least helped us justify our loss.

HOW FATHERHOOD CHANGED ME

Ed Krassenstein and his family in Positano, Italy (C) 2018

Before meeting my wife and having kids, I never really gave politics much thought.  I was always pretty moderate when it came to economics, as I had been exposed to various economic theories throughout college.  When it came to social issues, I was pretty moderate as well.  Abortion was never on my mind, and I didn’t really care much about thrusting myself into a debate concerning gay rights. I didn’t have any first-hand experience or know of anyone who had, when it came to discrimination based on sexual preference.

Meeting my wife and having children, changed my political perspective in many ways.  While I still consider myself an Independent, my views have shifted to the left over the past couple of years. When it comes to economics, I’m still pretty moderate, although I feel as though the Republican party has moved further to the right, while the Democrats have moved further to the left. I believe that technology will ultimately force our economy to gradually become more liberal-thinking over the next 10-25 years.  As computers and robotics take over many of the jobs which drive the economy, steps will need to be taken in order to help disperse wealth in a fair way.  Like many Democrats do, I do not support inflated minimum wages. I believe in keeping the minimum wage consistent with where it has been in real dollars, over the past several decades.  Otherwise you risk harming the very businesses that pay these wages. However, I do believe that a small living wage will eventually need to be implemented so that those whose jobs are replaced by technology will still have enough money to survive off of.  A living wage is not needed now, but it will need to be given some thought over the next decade. I don’t pretend to know the answers to everything, but I do know that if we continue running our economy the way we have been for the past 100 years, we will eventually be surpassed by nations which embrace technology and the idea that technology can be used to earn a living for the humans which it replaces.  I don’t want to see my children grow up in a country where only computer engineers, robotic engineers, and top executives are able to support their families.

Before having kids, I didn’t give much thought to the never-ending debate concerning abortion.  Since having kids, my view has changed slightly. I do not like abortion, and I would never encourage anyone to abort their child, but at the same time I am 100% for women’s rights.  It’s not up to me or anyone else to tell a woman that she is not entitled to making a decision in regards to having an early abortion.  I don’t believe that late term abortions should be permitted, but to see laws go into effect in some states which outlaw abortions after 6 weeks, in my mind, is ridiculous.

Just as I believe that every woman should have the right to decide what they do with their own bodies, I also believe that every individual should have the right to be themselves, get married, and have children of their own — regardless of sex, sexual identity or sexual orientation. I couldn’t imagine if one of my sons were to grow up, and not be permitted to be happy because someone else, unrelated to them, says that they can’t get married to the one they love.  To me, that’s despicable, inhumane and completely un-American.

My views are constantly changing, and I believe that until you actually befriend members of particular social, religious, or socioeconomic backgrounds, you don’t have the right to judge, stereotype or hold a grudge against that group.   This includes different races, nationalities, sexual preferences, or virtually any group of people who you don’t self-identify with.

The future belongs, not to us, but to our children. We must keep that in mind as parents and politicians.

MY OPPOSITION TO PRESIDENT TRUMP

I don’t oppose President Trump because he is a Republican.  I oppose him because he is a bigot, narcissist, and in my opinion he only cares about what’s good for himself, rather than what’s good for our country.  If he was a Democrat, I’d oppose him.  If he was an Independent, I’d oppose him.

I never opposed John McCain, George W. Bush, his father, or Ronald Reagan.  I respected these men, and I respected the office that they held.  I disagreed on some of their politics, just as I disagreed with some of Obama and Clinton’s politics. With Donald Trump though, I simply do not respect him or what he stands for.

I believe that history will not remember Trump fondly, in any sense of the word.  He will represent a step backward in America, and those who blindly supported him based on the mere fact that he claims to be a Republican, will also be tarnished by history.

OUR FUTURE

America has a future because Americans are generally good, smart, caring people.  We are a country made up of patriotic heroes, great communities, and a system of government that is built to last. We have two political parties, which act as checks and balances on each other, ensuring that neither one pulls the country too far in one direction.  We must keep many American traditions alive, but also progress in such a fashion that we don’t fall behind the rest of the world.  If we were to stick to American traditions 100% of the time, we would still have slavery and segregation.  If we simply progressed without respecting our conservative traditions, America would lose its identity. It’s the combination of political balance as well as balancing American traditions with American progression that will enable us to both remain who we are as a country but also change in a positive way.

I am always open to debate, and welcome criticism.  However, I only ask that you keep my children out of it.  Just recently a writer for the Daily Beast, Lachlan Markay, started posting images of my 4-year-old son as a way to try and get under my skin.  Stuff like this should be left out of politics!  Children should never be brought into a debate.