Coinbase CEO calls for action in electing pro-crypto lawmakers following SEC Wells notice

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Brian Armstrong urged crypto proponents to “contact their congressman, donate to pro-crypto candidates, show up at town halls” in an effort to achieve clear rules for crypto.

Brian Armstrong, the chief executive officer of United States-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, has renewed calls for crypto users to “elect pro-crypto candidates.”

In a March 23 Twitter Spaces discussion, Armstrong said Coinbase would be making efforts to organize the roughly 50 million U.S. citizens who use crypto into a political force. His statement followed the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, issuing a Wells Notice to the crypto exchange, suggesting a potential enforcement action.

“What we’re going to do is start putting out content where people can contact their congressman, donate to pro-crypto candidates, show up at town halls, make your voice heard,” said the Coinbase CEO. “We are going to elect pro-crypto candidates in this country to make sure that our success is ensured.”

Armstrong’s call to action was the latest move by the Coinbase CEO representing a change in his stance on mixing business and politics. In September 2020, he wrote a blog post claiming the exchange should not advocate “for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission because it is a distraction from our mission.”

Related: Coinbase is planning to set up crypto trading platform outside US: Report

Since that 2020 post and following its initial public offering in April 2021, Coinbase executives have openly become more involved in U.S. politics. Armstrong has met with U.S. lawmakers and regulators, and chief policy officer Faryar Shirzad announced the creation of a voter registration portal in August 2022. In February, Coinbase called on its users to “advance pro-crypto policy in all 435 Congressional Districts across the U.S.” with the launch of the Crypto435 campaign.

“When you think about 20% of Americans owning crypto […] those are real voters who care about these races and who can actually make a difference if they show up to vote,” said Coinbase’s head of U.S. policy Kara Calvert.

It’s unclear if the SEC intends to pursue enforcement action against Coinbase despite the Wells notice. Chief legal officer Paul Grewal said Coinbase had “simply been told nothing” regarding which assets or services the SEC may be targeting. On Twitter Spaces, Armstrong renewed calls for listeners to support a petition to the financial regulator arguing that staking would not qualify as a security subject to its enforcement.

“A reprehensible amount of resources and brainpower have been spent in the U.S. trying to engage with this SEC and trying to create substance and a path out of the wraithlike comments issued by the agency,” Crypto Council for Innovation CEO Sheila Warren said to Cointelegraph. “Are we really going to allow one agency in the U.S. to set the entire trajectory of an innovation for the entire country, especially if that agency refuses to engage with the industry it is trying to regulate?”

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