Crypto Political Operation Targets California's Katie Porter by Undermining Her Base

A leading industry super PAC, Fairshake, is appealing directly to young crypto holders in Porter's state to reject the congresswoman's Senate bid

AccessTimeIconFeb 28, 2024 at 2:00 p.m. UTC
  • Fairshake is trying to throttle the Senate campaign of a California progressive, Rep. Katie Porter, before she can make it to the general election there.
  • The super PAC is seeking to convince the young, crypto-owning voters in her base to go a different direction, hoping to avoid an ally of crypto critic Elizabeth Warren being added to the Senate.

A leading crypto industry political operation, Fairshake, is trying to ensure that the U.S. Senate doesn't get a twin for its chief Washington antagonist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) by trying to cut the legs from under U.S. Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) in the 11th hour of her state's primary-election battle.

Porter, a prominent progressive lawmaker in the mold of Warren, left her swing-district seat to pursue California's Senate opening left by the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

She's a relatively young candidate whose base is youthful, which is a similar demographic with the kind of people who gravitate toward an interest in crypto. Fairshake – a political action committee (PAC) that's raised tens of millions from the digital assets sector – is devoting some of the millions it's staked on defeating Porter to directly beseeching crypto owners to pick somebody else.

“This is a critical voter block which Katie Porter must win to advance," Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Fairshake, told CoinDesk. "We are making sure the 8 million crypto owners in California – who are disproportionately young voters who support Democrats – know about her hostility toward the technology and how that would hurt American jobs."

The group is putting out targeted ads on social media to get to those voters, Vlasto said.

Unlike Warren, Porter hasn't yet been a loud voice against the crypto industry, apart from criticism of the crypto mining sector's energy usage. But she's been an ally of Warren, and if she were placed on the Senate Banking Committee, she could team up with the Massachusetts lawmaker.

Fairshake is targeting crypto voters with direct ads on social media. (Fairshake)
Fairshake is targeting crypto voters with direct ads on social media. (Fairshake)

Fairshake has taken in nearly $90 million in crypto industry donations, including a recent $4.9 million from Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss. The PAC said it's spent more than $6 million to oppose Porter.

The super PAC targeted the congresswoman previously with ads that suggested she took money from corporate donors, but her campaign called those assertions "a scheme to mislead voters," and said that this was an example of "billionaires and corporate special interests using misinformation to rig our elections." A fact check by the Sacramento Bee agreed the earlier ads were misleading.

Polling in the California election shows Porter in a fight for second place in a primary system in which the top two candidates – no matter which party – advance to the general election. In this case, it's the leading Republican, Steve Garvey, that Porter would likely need to overtake by next week if she's going to be on that final ballot. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has maintained the lead throughout the race.

The March 5 primary is a life-or-death contest for Porter's congressional career, because she left her hard-won Orange County district and won't have a legislative role if she comes in third. Making up a handful of percentage points in the next week would only give her an opportunity to bridge the gap with Schiff – if he maintains the lead – by November.


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Jesse Hamilton

Jesse Hamilton is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for global policy and regulation. He doesn't hold any crypto.