EXCLUSIVE: Pro-crypto nonprofit targets lawmakers ahead of SEC showdown

A pro-crypto nonprofit is launching an advertizing blitz ahead of a key regulator’s anticipated appearance before a congressional committee next week.

Dozens of crypto company founders — including Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong — will also head to Capitol Hill as part of the organization’s Stand With Crypto Day on Sept. 27.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler is expected to testify before the House Financial Services Committee that day, according to reporting by Fox Business and POLITICO, although the committee has not formally announced the hearing.

Coinbase, the biggest U.S.-based crypto exchange, helped launch the independent nonprofit Stand With Crypto in August to mobilize the cryptocurrency community in support of pro-crypto policies.

Since its launch, Coinbase says the group has garnered tens of thousands of supporters.

The group’s new campaign targets federal lawmakers and seeks to get pro-crypto constituents across the U.S. to raise their voices with Congress. The push focuses on nine “swing states”: Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The primarily digital push urges constituents to call their lawmakers and request their support for the Financial Innovation and Technology for the 21st Century Act (FIT21 Act), a sweeping regulatory bill supported by several crypto industry advocates, including Coinbase.

“America’s 52 million-strong crypto constituency is engaged and want both clarity and protections as consumers and job creators,” Kara Calvert, head of U.S. policy at Coinbase, told The Hill in a phone interview.

“Coinbase is supporting the innovation and opportunity they’re building every day — and we intend to help them make sure their voices are heard loud and clear.”

An SEC spokesperson directed The Hill’s question about the hearing to the House Financial Services Committee. Committee spokespeople did not immediately return The Hill’s request for comment.

During the committee’s April oversight hearing, some Republican lawmakers grilled Gensler on his “regulation by enforcement” approach to digital assets.

Gensler has been highly skeptical of the crypto industry, telling the Senate Banking Committee during an oversight hearing last week, “I’ve never seen a field that’s so rife with misconduct.”

The SEC sued Coinbase in June for allegedly selling unregistered securities. In an August brief, Coinbase said the digital assets in question did not qualify as securities and that the agency overstepped its authority.

Americans want clarity on crypto just as much as a company like Coinbase does, which is why Coinbase is supporting Stand With Crypto, Calvert told The Hill.

Coinbase itself more than doubled its federal lobbying spending from $1.5 million in 2021 to $3.4 million in 2022, more money than any other industry player spent last year, according to federal lobbying data analyzed by the money-in-politics research group OpenSecrets. It spent $1.4 million on lobbying during the first six months of 2023.

Several crypto advocates have told The Hill that legal battles are shaping regulation in the absence of legislative action, noting that still leaves a lot of room for uncertainty.

Calvert told The Hill that a potential House floor vote on the FIT21 Act, which the House Financial Services Committee voted to advance in July, would be a vote for or against crypto.

“You’re either for moving forward on crypto legislation and crypto regulatory clarity or you’re not,” Calvert said.

This story was updated at 8:38 a.m.

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