US crypto industry lobby spending on track for new record in 2023

FILE PHOTO: Bitcoin coins are seen at a stand during the Bitcoin Conference 2023, in Miami Beach, Florida, U.S., May 19, 2023. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The cryptocurrency industry was on track to hit a new record for federal lobbying spending, after a year in which firms scrambled to repair their reputations and advance friendly legislation, according to data provided to Reuters by nonprofit research group OpenSecrets.

Crypto companies spent $18.96 million in the first three quarters of 2023 on lobbying, compared with $16.1 million during the same period in 2022. That was despite last year's spectacular meltdown of crypto exchange FTX, which had been a top-ten spender. Last year, companies including FTX spent nearly $22 million on lobbying in total.

Coinbase, the largest U.S. crypto exchange, led the pack again, spending $2.16 million, followed by Foris DAX, which operates, the Blockchain Association and Binance Holdings.

“Our goal is to engage directly with policymakers, build relationships and bridge the education gap to build a commonsense regulatory framework," said Kristin Smith, CEO of the Blockchain Association, in a statement.

Crypto companies have been expanding in Washington, in part to try to mend their reputations following a string of scandals last year, including the collapse of FTX, whose former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried had been a familiar presence in Washington. He was found guilty of fraud last month by a jury in a Manhattan federal court.

Crypto firms have also been trying to combat growing regulatory scrutiny, especially from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission which says the industry has been flouting its rules. Lobbying escalated after the SEC sued Coinbase and Binance in June for allegedly failing to register tokens, claims they deny.

The industry has also been pushing the SEC to approve a spot bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), which would open up the world's largest cryptocurrency to millions more investors. Optimism that the agency will green-light the product after losing to a key court on the matter in the summer helped drive bitcoin to a 20-month high on Monday.

Crypto companies have also been trying to advance friendly legislation in the House of Representatives and scored a victory in July when a congressional committee in that chamber passed two major bills that lobbyists say would help provide clarity over which existing financial rules apply to crypto companies.

Although those bills have yet to advance further, crypto lobbyists are not letting up. Coinbase, which in September launched a grassroots advocacy campaign, is continuing its push with more lawmaker meetings in coming weeks, a spokesperson said.

Binance and did not respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Hannah Lang in Washington; Editing by Michelle Price and Matthew Lewis)

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