Crypto PAC Spent Millions to Get Alabama Candidate on Path Toward Congress

Shomari Figures just won the Democratic primary in Alabama after $2.7 million in outside support from one of the digital assets industry's main campaign-finance operations.

AccessTimeIconApr 17, 2024 at 4:21 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 17, 2024 at 5:42 p.m. UTC
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  • Shomari Figures benefited from nearly $3 million in indirect support from a single crypto-focused political action committee on his way to winning the Democratic primary in an Alabama house race.
  • The flood of outside advertising may have given him an advantage over a prominent Democratic opponent who raised more in direct contributions.

Shomari Figures, a Washington insider with a lengthy progressive resume, didn't pull in the most money in direct contributions as he sought one of Alabama's seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Still, the crypto-friendly candidate dominated the crowded field of fellow Democrats and then won this week's Democratic runoff with 61% of the vote.

One potential difference between Figures and his opponents may have been the $2.7 million in behind-the-scenes support from a political action committee (PAC) backed by the cryptocurrency industry, Protect Progress. He drew that spending – known in the field of campaign finance as "independent expenditures" that aren't an official part of a campaign – because he expressed support for crypto.

"Shomari believes in working together to support innovation and create good paying jobs for his community and all Americans," Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Protect Progress and affiliated industry PACs, said in a statement on Wednesday. "We are proud to support leaders like Shomari on both sides of the aisle."

Figures, who occupied roles in former President Barack Obama's White House and once worked for current Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), said on his campaign website that he would "embrace the new landscape around digital assets, like cryptocurrency, to stimulate innovation and technological advancement."

That was enough for Protect Progress PAC – an offshoot of the main crypto industry group, Fairshake – to target him with a dominant level of industry help in Alabama's 2nd Congressional District, which has been held by Republicans but was redrawn before this race to favor Democrats. Figures' own campaign raised a little more than $400,000 in direct contributions, according to the most recent disclosures to the Federal Election Commission. That was slightly less than his chief opponent, Anthony Daniels, the minority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives, and the records show no significant PAC support for the candidates Figures faced.

The industry's spending – $2.7 million, according to the committee's organizers – marked the most the PAC has so far devoted to a Democratic congressional candidate, followed by about $1 million for Texas Democrat Julie Johnson. Super PACs generally devote their money to advertising in support of a candidacy but aren't permitted to coordinate directly with the campaign.

Protect Progress and Fairshake -- which disclose their contributors, unlike another dark-money crypto political organization, Cedar Innovation Foundation -- are backed by a long list of digital assets giants, including Ripple Labs, Coinbase and the investing duo Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz. Unlike the campaign spending blitz of the last congressional elections, which had been led by tens of millions from former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, this season's giving has so far been more focused on a shorter list of crypto-supporting politicians – a mix of proven incumbents and some new candidates who are clearly friendly toward the industry.

Edited by Nikhilesh De.


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Jesse Hamilton

Jesse Hamilton is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for global policy and regulation. He doesn't hold any crypto.

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