Crypto Dollars Helped Lift U.S. Politicians to Victory in Congressional Primaries

Campaign giving from industry sources has factored heavily in several races, aiding some likely future members of Congress, though November will see the major test.

AccessTimeIconMar 6, 2024 at 5:49 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 10:47 p.m. UTC
  • Crypto political action committees contributed to congressional candidates who won their primaries on Tuesday, including in Texas, North Carolina and Alabama.
  • The bulk of their giving went to tank U.S. Rep. Katie Porter in her bid for a California Senate seat.

Focused campaign spending from the crypto industry hit paydirt in Super Tuesday elections across the U.S., with several key congressional races going the way the industry had hoped.

Crypto interests had focused special attention on ensuring U.S. Rep. Katie Porter failed to secure a Senate seat in California, based on fears that she'd emulate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as a digital assets antagonist. In California's top-two primary contest, initial results show Porter coming in a distant third, which not only leaves the prominent progressive out of the running for the Senate but also out of a job next year in the House of Representatives.

"From the White House to the Senate to the House, make no mistake: The crypto voter is here," said Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Fairshake and other political action committees (PACs) established by crypto businesses and investors. "The crypto voter cares whose side a candidate is on, and the crypto voter will play a pivotal role in the 2024 elections."

Porter was the industry’s top target, and while crypto’s role in her defeat can't necessarily be quantified, industry cash arrived as she was neck-and-neck with the top Republican, Steve Garvey, who eventually surpassed her. If she'd reached second place, Porter still may not have been able to defeat U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in the November general election. He'll now battle Garvey for the Senate seat.

In total, the crypto PAC, including Fairshake and Protect Progress, spent more than $13 million on four congressional races, Vlasto reported. Of that amount, more than $10 million was devoted to defeating Porter.

Crypto interests also steered $1.7 million to help Shomari Figures dominate a crowded field of Democrats for a House race in Alabama. Figures – a veteran of several government roles in Washington – once worked for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has so far been an impediment to crypto legislation progress as the chair of the Senate Banking Committee. But Figures indicated on his campaign website that he'd "embrace the new landscape around digital assets, like cryptocurrency, to stimulate innovation and technological advancement."

In Texas, the industry PACs backed Julie Johnson with almost $1 million in another congressional race in which she'd so far secured more than half of the vote, despite facing nine other Democratic candidates.

And in North Carolina, the crypto industry boosted Tim Moore for a congressional race there, devoting more than $500,000 to the Republican speaker of the North Carolina House. Moore secured that nomination on Tuesday, and his seat is considered key to a shift toward more Republicans in the state's congressional delegation.

The outcomes in those races represent a preliminary win for crypto interests but whether Congress is friendlier to the sector next year will really turn on what happens in the November general elections. Most importantly, the president for the next four years will determine who is running the regulatory agencies and how they'll operate, and the majority parties in the Senate and House will control the agenda for crypto legislation. But whichever party ascends, progress in Congress will still require the two sides work together.

"We believe crypto election spending could help in the next Congress if the industry's preferred candidates win in November," said Jaret Seiberg, an analyst at TD Cowen, in a research note on Wednesday. Yet it won't be decisive as enough crypto critics will remain to ensure whatever bill advances is a compromise."

"Key critics remain in power, including Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown and Sen. Elizabeth Warren," Seiberg noted.

Edited by Kevin Reynolds.


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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.

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