Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong recapped his week of mingling with U.S. lawmakers in the nation’s capital in a 21-tweet thread on Friday complete with a couple of selfies with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Speaker Paul Ryan, now a partner at Boston private equity investment firm Solamere Capital.
“I spent most of this week in D.C. meeting with members of Congress and heads of various federal agencies,” Armstrong tweeted.
The goal of his visit was to “establish relationships and help answer questions about crypto,” Armstrong continued, adding he wanted to see what could be done to improve regulatory clarity in the crypto space.
Armstrong’s Washington, D.C., trip came a month after Coinbase became the first cryptocurrency exchange to go public in the U.S. via a direct listing on Nasdaq. He went to Washington as part of the newly formed Crypto Council for Innovation (CCI), an alliance of crypto leaders aimed at promoting crypto use and regulation around the world. Besides Coinbase, CCI is supported by firms including Square, Paradigm and Fidelity.
Although a number of bills concerning the regulation of virtual assets have been introduced to Congress, the most consequential bill so far passed the U.S. House of Representatives in April. Known as the Eliminate Barriers to Innovation Act of 2021 (H.R. 1602), the bill stands to provide much needed regulatory clarity and calls for the creation of a digital asset working group with representatives from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Industry advocates also want Congress to act on crypto taxation and improve the murky tax guidelines. Clarification on taxes has been particularly slow. On Monday, Representative Tom Emmer reintroduced a tax bill that will protect taxpayers from penalties on certain gains or losses on forked assets. The bill was originally introduced in 2018, and again in 2019.
On Friday, the Coinbase CEO tweeted that some reactions, particularly from Senator Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC), were “very positive” while he thought “skeptics” like Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) left with an open mind. All three lawmakers were tagged in the tweet.
Representatives for Sinema, McHenry and Warner did not respond to requests for comment.
In September 2020, Armstrong sparked controversy when he announced that his firm was apolitical, and offered severance packages to workers who were not comfortable with the company’s direction. Just months later, the New York Times published a report in which former employees of color at Coinbase accused the firm of discrimination.