Meet the crypto industry's new favorite lobbyists

Quick Take

  • The rise of the crypto industry’s efforts in Washington over the last year have had firms enlisting long-time policy players to lobby on their behalf.
  • The Block runs down several DC-native lobbying firms that have specialized as contractors for crypto companies. 

It’s no secret that crypto industry money has poured into Washington, DC, over the past year. 

While many firms have built up in-house lobbying and government relations teams, a handful of pure lobbying firms have become go-tos for private contracts.

Here are a few of the most common, based on publicly available lobbying disclosures and The Block's subsequent analysis. It’s important to note that the Lobbying Disclosure Act classifies a relatively small roster of activities as lobbying. Consequently, the dollar amounts here are not necessarily the total size of the contracts involved.

Conaway Graves Group

Key stats: 

  • Total receipts in Q1 2022: $180,000
  • Total receipts from crypto clients in Q1 2022: $60,000
  • Major crypto clients: FTX, ADAM, Ripple Labs

Mike Conaway, former leading Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, and his deputy chief of staff Scott Graves launched the Conaway Graves Group after leaving Congress at the beginning of 2021. 

Within months, the firm had a contract to lobby on behalf of Ripple Labs. In March of 2022, after the 1-year cooling-off period on Conaway’s lobbying activity had ended, the Association for Digital Assets Markets, or ADAM, also contracted Conaway Graves, its first reported moves into lobbying. At the end of June, FTX — a member of ADAM — registered its own contract with Conaway Graves. 

The firm also does work for a number of agricultural organizations. It remains, broadly, a fairly small operation. 

“The growth in that space has been organic for us. Folks have kind of come to us,” Graves told The Block. “Mike and I take very seriously our reputation and who we work with.”

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees oversee the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). FTX has become the most visible member of a movement to create a regulatory regime for crypto exchanges at the CFTC, rather than the larger and more aggressive Securities and Exchange Commission. The Ag Committees, for their part, have been receptive

Towards the end of his term, Conaway introduced the Digital Commodity Exchange Act, which proposed a voluntary regime. His successor on the Ag Committee, GT Thompson (R-PA) has picked up on effectively the same bill. It’s been a move popular with crypto marketplaces.

DiRoma Eck & Co

Key stats: 

  • Total receipts in Q1 2022: $145,000
  • Total receipts from crypto clients in Q1 2022: $80,000
  • Major crypto clients: Chainalysis, Marathon Digital, Uniswap Labs

DiRoma Eck & Co is a relatively young firm, launching in September 2020 when founders Michael DiRoma and Andrew Eck left positions at the Treasury Department. DiRoma had previously worked for Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), while Eck had been a staffer on the House Financial Services Committee.

With a contract filed in January 2021, blockchain forensics leader Chainalysis was the firm’s second reported client for lobbying work. Bitcoin mining giant Marathon Digital contracted the firm shortly thereafter. 

Just last month, Uniswap Labs registered a contract with the firm — the DeFi developers’ first formal entrance into lobbying, aside from, arguably, chief legal officer Marvin Ammori’s involvement in the launch of the DeFi Defense Fund.

In an email to The Block, DiRoma notes that the firm “represents a number of significant crypto-related firms from various corners of the industry who have really become thought leaders to policymakers across Washington.”

The firm’s website indeed highlights a number of appearances by its clients before congressional committees. Many of those come from Chainalysis, particularly co-founder and CSO Jonathan Levin, who has become one of the most visible representatives of the crypto industry before Capitol Hill. 

Sternhell Group

Key stats: 

  • Total receipts in Q1 2022: $1.19 million
  • Total receipts from crypto clients in Q1 2022: $350,000
  • Major crypto clients: Coin Center, Meta, Silvergate, Robinhood, Gemini Trust, Dapper Labs, Crypto Council for Innovation

Sternhell Group is maybe the earliest lobbying firm to work on crypto policy. Founder Alex Sternhell was a leading staffer on the Senate Banking Committee before joining Cypress Advocacy in 2008. He launched Sternhell Group in 2009. 

Alex Morcos’ project, Distributed Technology Innovations, contracted the firm in February of 2014, marking Sternhell Group’s first formal entry into digital asset policy. Later that year, it became the first lobbyist that crypto advocacy non-profit Coin Center turned to. Coin Center would go on to hire Robin Weisman of Sternhell Group affiliate RWC as counsel. Coin Center also lists Alex Sternhell as outside counsel. 

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, contracted Sternhell Group back in 2019, at the time that Mark Zuckerberg was facing a debacle on Capitol Hill over the now-aborted Libra/Diem stablecoin.

Crypto-focused bank Silvergate, trading app Robinhood, and NFT collectible devs Dapper Labs are among Sternhell Group’s other clients. It is also the only lobbying firm that Gemini employs. Crypto Council for Innovation, a newly staffed trade association, has also contracted the Sternhell Group, a representative for CCI has told The Block, its first lobbying since rebooting and restaffing at the beginning of 2022. 

“There are definitely firms focused solely on crypto policy. My practice is a tradfi practice with a particular specialization in crypto issues and continues to be,” Sternhell says. “It’s not simply clients that are crypto native that care about crypto. This is an asset class and technology that has gotten a lot of attention and focus from a broader group of financial services and technology.”

Franklin Square Group

Key stats: 

  • Total receipts in Q1 2022: $1.9 million
  • Total receipts from crypto clients in Q1 2022: $200,000
  • Major crypto clients: Algorand, Coinbase, Stripe, Opensea, Block fka Square

Franklin Square Group is the largest firm on this list by total accounts and has a broader focus on innovation. Franklin Square advertises its work as “bridging the gap between government and technology.” 

Some of its earliest clients included Google and Apple in the halcyon era of 2008, before tech giants fell from grace among regulators. Today, Franklin Square works with companies like Reddit, Intuit and GoDaddy.

“I’ve never felt more busy. Why do I feel so busy? Well, if you look at the headlines, tech is involved in more than half of the biggest issues of the day,” founder Josh Eckil told The Block. 

For more crypto-specific work, Square (now Block) contracted Franklin Square from 2011 to 2017. Franklin Square was subsequently the first lobbyist that both Stripe (in 2016) and Coinbase (in 2017) contracted Franklin Square back in 2017, retaining the firm as its only outside lobbyist through 2020 and, ultimately, hiring Kara Calvert from Franklin Square to run its now-massive internal lobbying program

Algorand has contracted Franklin Square since the beginning of 2020 and, on July 8, the firm registered to lobby on behalf of OpenSea. For both companies, the contract with Franklin Square is the only lobbying they report engaging in. 

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