Crypto trade associations saw lobbying boom amid Congressional infrastructure fight

Quick Take

  • Congressional lobbying reports are in for Q3 2021, showing the continuation of a significant uptrend.
  • In terms of both funding and third-party contracts, trade associations specializing in crypto have had a major year. 
  • The August fight over the infrastructure bill was a lightning rod for new influence spending. 

Crypto trade associations reported an unprecedented third quarter for lobbying spending, disclosures filed with Congress in the past few days show.  

The boom in lobbying spending took place as the industry found itself at the center of high-profile fights in Congress over a trillion-dollar infrastructure package. 

Historically, the Blockchain Association and the Chamber of Digital Commerce have been the largest crypto trade groups liaising with the federal government, a trend that has accelerated notably since the start of 2021. 

That ramp-up is on display in the chart below, gleaned from the new lobbying spend figures: 

2021 Crypto Trade Association Reports

Source: Senate Lobbying Disclosures. The graphs divide lobbying spending between the Blockchain Association and the Chamber of Digital Commerce own activities and separately adds in contracts with third-party firms. The Crypto Council for Innovation reported no internal lobbying activity, only a third-party contract.

The Blockchain Association’s reports on internal lobbying spending were up over 60%, growing from $130,000 in Q1 to $210,000 in Q3. Over the same timeframe, the Chamber of Digital Commerce’s lobbying spending rose from $30,000 to $136,000 — an increase of more than 450%.

As The Block noted while tallying Coinbase’s recently re-upped lobbying activities, the Lobbying Disclosure Act is limited in terms of what activity merits reporting as lobbying. Consequently, these numbers should not be interpreted as the full scope for these trade associations.

Factoring in contracts with Steptoe & Johnson, Goldstein Policy Solutions and Lincoln Policy Group, the Blockchain Association’s total lobbying spending reached $320,000 in Q3.

The Chamber of Digital Commerce’s total including outside contracts was $191,000 in Q3. Founder Perianne Boring told The Block in a statement: "The increase in resources we’re allocating to advocacy work is a reflection of the critical time we are in for crypto policy, which coincides with growing adoption of digital assets."

The Chamber also registered new contracts with Liquid Advisors and Looking Glass Labs. Looking Glass Labs is a small consultancy firm run by Teana Baker-Taylor, who joined the Chamber of Digital Commerce as chief policy officer in September.

The Crypto Council for Innovation, which saw a highly publicized rollout in the spring with the support of Square, Coinbase and Fidelity, had not reported any spending on lobbying until August, at which point it began a contract with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck that included lobbying spending of $60,000 in the third quarter.

While the CCI is still looking to hire an executive director, a representative told The Block that it onboarded Andreessen Horowitz and Ribbit Capital as members earlier this year. 

Even the Chicago-based Global Digital Assets & Cryptocurrency Association, which describes itself as a self-regulatory organization rather than a trade association, began to undertake federal lobbying, registering its first contracts with DC-based Atlas Crossing in August. 

The bulk of this heightened spending corresponds to the appearance of controversial definitions of the term “broker” for the purposes of IRS reporting in crypto, which ended up attracting unprecedented legislative attention to the industry. 

As Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association, told The Block at the time:

"We went from zero to 60 overnight, and we have caught the attention of the entire policymaking class in Washington."

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.