Understanding Crypto Political Spending & Potential Consequences


The crypto industry has emerged as a significant player in the 2024 elections, spending heavily to influence the outcomes of races and secure support for its political and economic goals. Media coverage of this spending has been superficial, focused mostly on the millions spent by the industry and reporting uncritically on the industry’s “protect innovation” message. What’s not captured in this coverage is the crypto industry’s actual record of harm and exploitation, and that a handful of Silicon Valley-based billionaires and venture capital firms are responsible for the lion’s share of this spending. Many of these funders hold extreme right-wing ideas about government, the economy and society, which are antithetical to most progressive or public interest-oriented constituencies.

Their aim is not subtle – they seek to buy election outcomes that will help ensure the crypto industry (and those financing it) receive special treatment from policymakers. If they are successful, these permissive policies would harm not only people participating in crypto markets, but other consumers, workers, communities, and anyone who is exposed to the broader financial system. If they succeed in flipping to a Republican Senate in order to achieve those goals it will of course have impacts well beyond crypto markets and financial stability.

Progressives and liberals need to see these developments as both a real challenge and real opportunity. If no one challenges the industry’s claims and rhetoric, the industry will steamroll candidates, races, and parties with little pushback. However, with a modest effort, the industry’s falsehoods, exaggerations, greed, and poor track record could be easily exposed.

Key Facts

  1. Crypto CEOs and Silicon Valley venture capital firms who are all-in on crypto are spending big on the 2024 Elections.
  2. Three crypto focused SuperPACs – Fairshake PAC, Protect Progress, and Defend American Jobs – have raised more than $160 million for the 2024 cycle to spend on federal races. These funds are significant, rivaling the expenditures of other industry funded special interest PACs.
  3. Based on our review of FEC reported contributions, many of these same individuals have also collectively contributed millions directly to candidates, party committees, and other outlets for political spending.
  4. It’s likely these PACs will receive more contributions – the small number of donors contributing to these funds have access to billions of dollars of assets. And crypto firms have access to platforms that more or less create new financial assets out of thin air.   
  5. The industry is targeting key races that will decide control of Congress, and/or elected officials who have strong pro-consumer positions and a strong critique of the crypto industry’s harmful practices.
  6. Crypto industry superPACs have said they will spend significant sums in the MT, OH, MI, and MD Senate races.
  7. Ohio Senator Brown (up for re-election), as Senate Banking Committee Chair, holds a key role related to crypto policy and has expressed skepticism about the industry and its policy proposals.
  8. Some of the same consulting firms working for Senate candidates and related independent expenditures groups are also being hired by crypto firms for their political work on those same races.
  9. Katie Porter was a target in the California Senate primary due to her position as a crypto critic. Fairshake PAC spent $10 million on ads attacking Katie Porter (using messaging unrelated to crypto). Porter lost; reliable sources suggest other factors were at play in the race, but Fairshake PAC nonetheless claimed victory, and Porter herself blamed the role of spending by crypto firms and others for her loss.
  10. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another noted crypto skeptic, is also a target. In addition to pledge spending by industry-funded PACS, Sen. Warren now faces two challengers who have ties to the crypto industry and have pro-crypto positions.
  11. Much like now-disgraced crypto mogul Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX did in 2022, during this cycle crypto firms are spending cynically and strategically, offering support for some Democratic candidates in tight races; making other contributions to Republicans that have supported their policy goals, and promising to oppose candidates in the razor tight Senate races that they deem ‘anti-crypto’.
  12. However, the industry is likely to side with Republican candidates, as per the quote from Financial Times coverage here, “‘Choosing between Democrats in state races is easy. Once the primary season comes to an end, Fairshake has a big decision to make: supporting pro-crypto leadership necessarily means supporting Republicans,’ the person familiar with Fairshake’s leadership and strategy also said.’”
  13. The funders behind this effort have political philosophies and track records that are largely antithetical to progressive values. A few examples include:
  14. Marc Andreessen – co-founder of crypto-friendly VC firm Andreessen Horowitz (known as a16z), Andreessen has espoused political viewsin line with far right libertarian moguls such as Peter Thiel and Elon Musk.
    1. He has decried a focus on ESG investing as “woke” investing.
    1. In a recent “Techno-Optimist Manifesto”, which essentially declared that technology should be seen as the savior of humanity and that those creating should be treated as philosopher-kings, Andreessen favorably quoted one or two fascist thinkers from the pre-WWII era.
  15. Brian Armstrong, Coinbase founder and CEO, was widely criticized for telling his employees to keep politics out of company discussions in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Coinbase has also been criticized for lack of diversity within its staff and has been accused by staff of discriminatory treatment. Armstrong and other Coinbase executives also have faced civil and criminal suits accusing them of insider trading. Coinbase faces multiple regulatory lawsuits, and is often criticized for its poor record of customer service.
  16. Paradigm, a VC fund linked to both a16z and Coinbase), was the single biggest investor in FTX, the vehicle for Sam-Bankman Fried’s historic fraudulent scheme. The firm claimed “ignorance” regarding FTX’s practices, but has been widely criticized (along with other firms) for basic failures in due diligence, or more. Paradigm has also recently invested in a ‘cryptotopia’ project conceived by Dryden Brown, who has ties to far-right, white supremacists groups and online communities.
  17. The Winklevoss Twins The “co-founders” of Facebook that received a large settlement from Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg, the two have invested heavily in crypto, and created their own firm Gemini. However, Gemini is being sued by the NY AG for charges related to the theft or mismanagement of over $1 billion in customer funds; news reports suggest that, even as Gemini customers were suffering due to exposure from the FTX fallout, the Winklevii quietly took steps to withdraw and protect their personal funds from their collapsing platform.
  • The firms and funders behind this spending are linked directly or indirectly to a myriad of failed crypto and tech ventures that have harmed, cheated, or exploited consumers, workers, and their communities. Often, the VC firms that invest in risky crypto start-ups make money, regardless of whether the projects are successful or whether they end up causing widespread harm. In addition to their links with FTX, a few other examples include:
  • Terra/Luna – A major stablecoin platform that collapsed in May 2022, precipitating the broader crypto market crash. The firm’s founder Do Kwon is under arrest and wanted in multiple countries. Its customers lost billions and are languishing in bankruptcy proceedings
  • Celsius – A crypto lending platform that took its customers’ money and reinvested it in other risky crypto ventures that failed, losing billions in customer funds. The firm is now bankrupt; its leadership is now facing civil and criminal fraud charges.
  • Helium – a decentralized crypto-driven Wi-Fi venture, which collapsed after the business failed and insiders were accused of what amounted to internal grift and theft, leaving most users with worthless crypto hardware and lost investments.
  • Axie Infinity – a game-based crypto platform that relied on a “play to earn” model where gamers generated crypto tokens for the platform through game play, in exchange for crypto payments. It came under fire for engendering a sweat-shop style industry in the Philippines and elsewhere. Many gamers were paid pittances for playing the game for hours a day, to prop up trading activity on the platform. And, when the crypto market crashed in 2022, many Axie “gamers” were financially wiped out.


If the industry is successful in its efforts, many millions of Americans could be harmed. The policy changes sought by the crypto industry would establish weak rules and oversight for the industry, green lighting the crypto industry’s current predatory business model, and exposing more investors to crypto’s risks and harms.

Furthermore, these policy changes would also undermine long standing financial regulatory safeguards and create loopholes crypto and other Wall Street firms would exploit to evade greater oversight and accountability – weakening protections for all financial consumers and investors.

Overall, a “crypto at all costs” policy agenda that brings crypto closer to the mainstream economy under a light-touch rulebook means the next crypto crash will harm millions more Americans, including many who never ‘touched’ crypto.

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