Win some, lose some: How crypto-linked PACs fared in Tuesday’s primaries

Quick Take

  • Crypto-linked PACs spent big in Tuesday night’s primaries, flexing political muscle on both sides of the aisle.
  • Voters cast ballots in several states this week, but most of the crypto action was in Illinois’ congressional races.

Super PACs linked to some of crypto’s biggest names spent millions on Tuesday night’s primary elections, pouring serious cash into political races as regulatory action heats up in Washington.

In the end, primary election outcomes in Illinois, Oklahoma and several other states were a mixed bag for crypto-linked super PACs, several of which are tied to the cryptocurrency exchange FTX. 

Crypto-linked political action committees are not all the same. Some groups explicitly support pro-crypto candidates, while others are funded by crypto moguls but advocate for other issues. 

Protect Our Future, funded primarily by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, has endorsed nearly two dozen candidates during the 2022 election cycle. The group has pledged to spend $20 million in Democratic primaries and says its focus is on pandemic preparedness. Bankman-Fried has poured $23 million into the PAC, according to a Federal Election Commission report.

Meanwhile, FTX Digital Markets co-CEO Ryan Salame launched American Dream Federal Action PAC earlier this year, which is aimed at promoting the economic and national security in the United States and backs Republican candidates. Salame gave the PAC $8 million in May, bringing his contributions to $12 million since it launched.

Salame is also involved with GMI PAC, a separate political committee. GMI PAC did not endorse candidates in last night’s primaries but gave $900,000 to a pair of political groups that did support politicians. GMI PAC gave $500,000 to Web3 Forward PAC and $400,000 to Crypto Innovation, another PAC.

GMI PAC's donors include Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz of AH Capital Management and Multicoin Capital's Tushar Jain and Pyahm Samani, according to its most recent filing.

The winners of Tuesday night’s primaries will advance to the November general election, except for those running in states with runoffs slated for later this summer. American Dream Federal Action and GMI PAC declined to comment.

The winners 

Protect Our Future PAC spent close to a million dollars on Congressional races in Illinois, where two of the group’s endorsed candidates won primaries, and another advanced without a contested primary. Protect Our Future-endorsed Democrat Nikki Budzinski won the primary in IL-13. The PAC spent more than a quarter of a million dollars ($263,000) supporting Budzinski in the newly redrawn district, which is in the northeastern part of the state. 

Also in Illinois, Protect Our Future spent $500,000 on behalf of winner Jonathan Jackson in IL-01, a Chicago-based district. Web3 Forward, which received a cash infusion from GMI PAC in May, reported spending $491,000 to boost Jackson on broadcast TV in the final days of the race.

Meanwhile, in New York, Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, a former Congressman, had the backing of Protect Our Future and beat Democratic primary challenger Ana María Archila. The group also endorsed New York Democrat Alex Bores, who won a Democratic primary for a State Assembly seat.

The losers 

Some of the candidates supported by crypto-linked PACs didn't fare as well in their respective primaries. 

American Dream Federal Action spent nearly $2.4 million boosting Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), according to a Federal Election Commission filing. Davis lost to Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) in a contentious member-on-member primary.

On the Democratic side, Protect Our Future also saw a candidate lose in Illinois: state Ald. Gil Villegas. State Rep. Delia Ramirez won the Democratic primary in IL-03. 

The gray area

Oklahoma’s biggest race is still unsettled.

The GOP Senate primary, which saw some crypto-linked cash, is headed to a runoff. Neither Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) nor former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon cleared 50 percent of the vote to replace Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and will go head-to-head in August. Crypto Innovation PAC, which received nearly a half-million dollars from GMI PAC in May, last week reported spending $167,000 to boost Mullin in the primary with a TV ad buy.

Several of Protect Our Future’s endorsed candidates advanced on Tuesday by default because they did not have primary opponents. Protect Our Future reported spending $200,000 on behalf of Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.). PAC-endorsed Colorado Democrat Brittany Pettersen advanced in CO-07 without a challenger.

Crypto-linked PACs have also chosen sides in New York's Congressional primaries, but those races were delayed until August due to the once-a-decade redrawing of House districts.

Disclaimer: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

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