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Super Tuesday to test the crypto industry’s resurgent political might


NEW YORK: Crypto is back! And this doesn’t just concern the markets.

The booming cryptocurrency industry is heading into the 2024 US elections, spending millions of dollars in Super Tuesday primaries in California, Alabama and Texas to promote pro-cryptocurrency candidates and defeat those who demand more regulation.

How these candidates perform on Tuesday, as dozens of races across America are narrowed down to two candidates, will indicate the influence that increasingly crypto-wealthy leaders could wield in November.

Brand-new industry super PACs, or independent fundraising groups, Fairshake, Protect Progress and Defend American Jobs, backed by funds from Coinbase and the Winklevoss twins, have spent at least $13 million in primary races on Tuesday, according to a Reuters analysis of data from OpenSecrets, a research group that tracks money in American politics and its influence on elections and policy.

And that’s just the beginning, officials say.

“The crypto community plays politics to win,” said Josh Vlasto, a spokesperson for Fairshake. “We will have influence and impact in races behind candidates who align with our agenda and vision.”

In total, the three super PACs raised nearly $102 million between January 2023 and January 2024, according to Federal Election Commission data.

The cryptocurrency industry has surged in recent months and Bitcoin hit a new high last week, after the collapse of several big players in 2022 crushed prices and sparked a regulatory crackdown.

The industry, including its employees and political action committees, has so far contributed about $59.2 million to the 2024 election cycle, compared to $26.8 million for the midterm cycle of 2022 and $1.6 million for the 2020 cycle, according to OpenSecrets data.

Progressive California Democrat Katie Porter, a Senate candidate, is a key target. Fairshake spent more than $10 million trying to convince voters not to support Porter, including launching a statewide television and digital media buy.

Porter joined U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2022, seeking information from Texas’ power grid operator about cryptomining operations in the state and how the energy used by the industry affects climate change and the energy network.

“This shady super PAC is spending over $10 million to kick Katie out of Washington because they know she will stand up for Californians and take on powerful special interests like them in the Senate,” said Senate Rep. Lindsay Reilly. Porter’s campaign speech.

Protect Progress also spent about $1.7 million supporting Shomari Figures, a Democrat and former deputy chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is running for reelection in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. A Democrat is expected to win the hotly contested race, triggered after a federal court ordered Alabama to draw a new congressional map.

Figures, if elected, is committed to “embracing the new landscape around digital assets, like cryptocurrency, to drive innovation and technological progress,” its website states.

In Texas, Protect Progress invested approximately $962,000 to support Rep. Julie Johnson, a Democrat running in the state’s 32nd Congressional District.

Meanwhile, Defend American Jobs has allocated more than $1 million to support Reps. John Bradford III and Tim Moore, both North Carolina Republicans, according to OpenSecrets data. Moore is the speaker of the state House of Representatives.

Democrats are favored to take control of the House of Representatives in the 2024 elections, perhaps by a slim margin, meaning individual members of Congress could play a central role in passing legislation.

“You have candidates in all of these races who have not only demonstrated an openness to learning and thinking about digital assets, but who have also called on Congress and policymakers to act,” said Kara Calvert, manager of American politics at Coinbase.

Coinbase, an online platform for buying and selling crypto, is also behind a nonprofit group called Stand With Crypto Alliance, which now has 315,000 members, and which aims to organize landlord voters of crypto and to influence public opinion.

Industry interest in the 2024 election follows one of the largest financial frauds on record. FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was convicted last year of stealing from customers. Prosecutors say he used those funds to donate more than $100 million to U.S. political campaigns.

Federal election disclosures show he gave about $40 million to groups and campaigns largely aligned with Democrats.

An indictment also accuses Bankman-Fried of directing two FTX executives to circumvent contribution limits by donating $9.7 million to Democrats and Republicans to Democratic candidates and causes, and of more than $24 million to Republican candidates and causes in 2022.

At least some later returned the money.

“The FTX/Alameda experience should be a warning” for any campaign, said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a law professor at Stetson University College of Law. Alameda Research was Bankman-Fried’s crypto-focused hedge fund.

“The FTX/Alameda funds that entered politics are subject to two different attempts to recover the money: one recovery from FTX’s bankruptcy estate and another recovery from federal prosecutors who view the money as the proceeds of ‘a crime.”


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