Crypto Seeks to Make Mark on U.S. Elections During 'Super Tuesday'

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong calls primaries a "chance to send a message" to U.S. politicians ignoring digital assets policy issues.

AccessTimeIconMar 5, 2024 at 10:32 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 10:43 p.m. UTC
  • Super Tuesday's array of congressional primary results could have some implications for who will be minding the store in Washington, and crypto insiders are trying to have their say.
  • Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong argued that politicians need to start realizing how wide a constituency crypto enthusiasts represent.

The long list of primary elections Tuesday across 15 U.S. states will steer the fates of many seats in Congress and further solidifies the presidential showdown later this year, but Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said it's also a "chance to send a message" to federal politicians who've declined to come up with crypto policies.

"They're still not taking us seriously," he said at a crypto rally in California, hosted by Coinbase-backed political group Stand With Crypto on the eve of so-called Super Tuesday. He argued an increasing numbers of voters are interested in digital assets.

"Suddenly everybody in DC, they're going to realize this is just good politics," Armstrong said, suggesting politicians will soon realize they need to figure out crypto. "If I want to be elected, I need to go understand this technology and represent my constituency."

This marks the second congressional campaign season in which the crypto industry has been a significant presence, steering tens of millions of dollars toward friendly candidates or against skeptics of the sector.

In California, the top two Democrats seeking the open Senate seat represent a sharp divide over crypto, according to grades maintained on Stand With Crypto's website. U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has an "A" on the site, and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) has an "F," based on remarks they've made or positions they've taken on crypto legislation.

Porter has been a particular target of Fairshake, a crypto political action committee (PAC) that's spent millions to undermine her Senate run, and if she doesn't manage to make the top two in today's voting, she won't make the general election. So far, polling has suggested she's well behind Schiff and top Republican Steve Garvey.

The digital assets industry is also keenly interested in how Democrat Julie Johnson does in her bid to represent a Texas congressional district, and the same for Democrat Shomari Figures in Alabama. Figures' candidate website says the Washington insider hopes to "embrace the new landscape around digital assets," and Johnson's site contends that "Americans can benefit from crypto innovation." In both of those congressional races, the primary ballot is crowded with candidates.

By Wednesday, the field of politicians fighting for spots in Congress will narrow considerably. In the election cycle two years ago, industry donations focused largely on sure-thing candidates. But because such a large share of donations came from the leaders of defunct exchange FTX and its disgraced founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, one third of the current Congress had to deal with the sting of trying to explain or back out of those campaign contributions.

After the failures of 2022 – which, besides FTX, saw a number of crypto lenders and a few mining companies file for bankruptcy – and the ongoing legislative debates since then, crypto has become a more divisive political issue. Republicans have been more likely to come out in staunch support of the industry, so friendly Democrats could become increasingly difficult to find.

Also on Tuesday, one former Democrat – Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) – announced she'd be stepping down at the end of the year. Sinema was partially responsible for the 2021 infrastructure bill that landed a legislative blow against the crypto industry in its tax implications. It was that wound that helped convince the industry to bolster its lobbying and campaign-finance aspirations in 2022.


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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.