Illinois House races test crypto industry’s influence • OpenSecrets

FTX is a cryptocurrency exchange platform founded by billionaire investor Sam Bankman-Fried (Photo illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Cryptocurrency-backed political committees poured $4 million into four Illinois congressional races with success in three Democratic primaries and one loss in a Republican primary.

Some high-profile races were the latest evidence of massive political spending by crypto industry leaders that propelled candidates on both sides of the aisle, as two GOP incumbents clashed in the 15th District of the Congress and 17 Democratic candidates competed for the 1st Congressional District. nomination.

The biggest spenders were political committees founded and funded by two CEOs of FTX, the Bahamas-based cryptocurrency exchange. OpenSecrets has previously reported on the top contributions from crypto leaders, primarily FTX executives, as Washington assesses industry regulations.

OpenSecrets data shows that two committees broke their own outside spending records during the Illinois primary. The Protect Our Future PAC, formed by FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, endorsed more candidates in Illinois than any other state as of June 28. American Dream Federal Action, Carey’s conservative caucus founded by FTX co-executive director Ryan Salame, spent more money in Illinois’ District 15 than any other primary so far this cycle.

All three Democratic candidates backed by crypto political committees — Jonathan Jackson in District 1, Jesus Garcia in Congressional District 4, and Nikki Budzinski in Congressional District 13 — won their primaries. But cryptocurrency-backed Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) lost the GOP primary to Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.), who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and the conservative Club for Growth.

Protect Our Future PAC Endorses Winning Candidates

Protect Our Future PAC invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the three races in Illinois. While the Protect Our Future PAC made headlines for the massive spending it propelled Carrick Flynn, who lost the Democratic primary in Oregon’s 6th congressional district, every other candidate for the US House of Representatives who the super PAC has supported so far this cycle they won their Democratic primary.

Last month, Bankman-Fried announced her plan to spend “more than $100 million” with a “soft ceiling” of $1 billion during the 2024 election cycle. Bankman-Fried has already contributed $23 million to her Carey committee, which invested $963,000 in direct mail, television ads and other independent spending to boost three Democratic candidates competing in the Illinois primary.

Protect Our Future PAC spent $500,000 to support Jackson, son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and brother of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D–Ill.), in the 1st District; $200,000 to support Garcia in District 4; and $263,000 to support Budzinski.

Another super PAC, Opportunity for Tomorrow, spent $20,000 on digital ads to boost Budzinski. The super PAC shares a mailing address and treasurer with the Protect Our Future PAC, and Bankman-Fried contributed the $300,000 Opportunity for Tomorrow has raised so far.

1st Congressional District Candidates Call Out Crypto Interests and Dark Money

The Protect Our Future PAC and another crypto-backed super PAC, Web3Forward, spent close to $1 million combined on media supporting Jackson. A pro-crypto Carey committee, Dao for America, with a mysterious corporate donor spent another $154,000 to boost Jackson.

In Illinois’ 1st congressional district, which covers Chicago’s south side and surrounding suburbs, some candidates running to replace retired Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who has held the job since 1992, made reverse the flow of crypto money. in the race

Pat Dowell, who finished second to Jackson in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, criticized the rush of outside spending and said “dark money” crypto interests were “trying to buy” the seat.

“By definition, an independent expense is just that, independent. We’re not looking for it and we can’t control it,” Jackson’s campaign told ABC 7 Chicago last Tuesday.

Web3 Forward spent more than $490,000 on media supporting Jackson’s lead ticket. Web3 Forward, which registered with the FEC on Feb. 7, received a $2.5 million injection from GMI PAC, a pro-crypto PAC that has attracted large donations from industry leaders like Bankman-Fried and the co-founder of CMS Holdings, Daniel Matuszewski.

According to the Web3 Forward website, it endorses candidates who make it possible for “blockchain innovators” to develop networks “under a clearer legal and regulatory framework.” Dao for America’s website describes its mission to mobilize voters behind candidates who “understand the role digital assets can play in leveling the playing field and creating a more equitable society.” Digital assets include cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

Dao for America, which registered with the FEC on April 5, received the vast majority of its $295,000 from a company called Shrike Holdings. Shrike Holdings contributed $100,000 on May 5, $100,000 on May 6, and $75,000 on May 10. No other federal political committee has reported payments from the corporation as of June 27.

Dao for America did not respond to OpenSecrets’ request for comment on the contributions.

First loss for conservative crypto super PAC in headline battle

As of Tuesday’s primary, every conservative candidate backed by American Dream Federal Action won their Republican primary. Davis is the only pro-crypto super PAC-backed candidate to lose so far this cycle, and he was also the super PAC’s biggest bet at this point in the midterms.

Outside groups invested more than $12.2 million in the race. The American Dream Federal Action Network spent $2.4 million of the $2.6 million outside behind Davis, while the mainstream conservative super PACs spent millions supporting Miller and attacking Davis. Club for Growth Action spent $1.7 million for Miller and $943,000 against Davis, for example, while the Conservative Outsider PAC spent $2.5 million just to attack Davis.

Miller unseated Davis in the Illinois 15th district Republican primary in the latest battle for the headlines. Davis and Miller, the district’s current representative, clashed after Illinois lost a seat in the US House of Representatives following the last census. The congresswoman weathered a social media firestorm that followed a Saturday campaign rally with Trump, where she called for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade “a historic victory for white life.” His campaign made it clear that Miller meant “Right to Life.”

In April 2022, Salame launched American Dream Federal Action, which has spent $8.8 million so far this cycle. The super PAC supports “forward-thinking Republican candidates who want to protect the long-term economic and national security of the United States,” including cryptocurrency.

The cryptocurrency CEO originally contributed $3 million to American Dream Federal Action at the time the super PAC launched, and monthly filings for June show he contributed an additional $8 million in May.

The pro-crypto political committees funded by the two FTX executives have yet to endorse candidates in the same race.

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