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Cryptomania Comes to K Street

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The number of cryptocurrency lobbyists has nearly tripled since 2018, and the sector’s political spending quadrupled, according to a new report from Public Citizen released today. The number of lobbyists representing cryptocurrency proponents jumped from 115 in 2018 to 320 in 2021, while lobbying spending jumped from $2.2 million in 2018 to $9 million in 2021, the report found.

“Despite the recent plunge in cryptocurrency values, the cryptocurrency lobbying spree is only just beginning,” said Rick Claypool, a research director for Public Citizen and author of the report. “Like the megabanks, tech companies, fossil fuel corporations, and other industries, the crypto sector is pouring millions of dollars into pushing lawmakers to put their private business interests before the public interest. Even the most crypto-friendly lawmakers should stop to ask if what’s good for this volatile sector is what’s best for their constituents.”

Revolving-door lobbyists for the crypto industry in 2021 included many former lawmakers, such as U.S. Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), and numerous high-ranking congressional staffers. While not registered as lobbyists, more than a dozen officials left government to serve cryptocurrency interests, including President Donald Trump’s Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, and former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

The biggest lobbying spenders in the cryptocurrency sector were Coinbase, Ripple Labs, and Blockchain Association – each of which spent more than $2 million on lobbying between 2018 and 2021. Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) reported 27 lobbyists working on cryptocurrency issues, plus another four lobbying for Diem, Facebook’s now-defunct crypto effort. Visa, IBM, Citigroup, and Paypal also stepped up their crypto lobbying in 2021. Corporate trade associations also reported lobbying on cryptocurrency issues; for example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported 32 lobbyists working on it.

“Crypto is a wildly underregulated industry, and the new crypto titans want to keep it that way,” added Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen. “As heavy hitters in this burgeoning industry seek to keep themselves out of the regulatory spotlight, their need to play in politics with connected influence peddlers is obvious. These ballooning numbers demonstrate their commitment to avoiding scrutiny and reform.”