Cryptocurrency Industry Sets Up Washington Lobbying Group

Several cryptocurrency companies and their advocates have formed the Blockchain Association, the first-ever Washington, DC-based lobbying group to represent the fledgling industry and its investors and entrepreneurs. Among the companies behind the association are Coinbase, Circle and technology startup Protocol Labs, as well as investors Digital Currency Group and Polychain Capital. Kristin Smith, who lobbied on blockchain for Overstock.com when it began accepting bitcoin in 2014, will lead the group.

The Washington Post reports that Smith, who was also a former aide to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), said she has spent “a lot of time doing a lot of the basic education work in this space.” “I’m excited to focus exclusively on these issues,” she said. The technology behind cryptocurrency “raises novel questions about financial regulation in a digital age.”

Consumers have also been victimized by cryptocurrency-related scams that have been on the radar of state and federal regulators. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Congress have also “highlighted bitcoin’s and other cryptocurrencies’ growing profile.”

According to the Post, “the Blockchain Association aims to become the cryptocurrency industry’s top lobbying organization in Washington on policy issues, portraying itself as a voice for mainstream companies that want to work within the political system rather than circumventing it.”

The lobbying group’s first priority is to address “how cryptocurrencies are treated under U.S. tax law, and explaining to policymakers how anti-money-laundering and know-your-customer regulations apply to the industry.”

Coinbase chief legal and risk officer Mike Lempres stated that the Blockchain Association “is an effort to get the preeminent companies in the space together so [policymakers] know they’re hearing from companies that welcome regulation when it’s appropriate.” “We’re not companies looking to game the system, but trying to develop a legal and regulatory system that’ll stand the test of time,” he added.

Cryptocurrency think tank Coin Center executive director Jerry Brito reported that, unlike the Bitcoin Foundation, which was an organization that played the role of “think tank, lobbying group and standard-setting body,” the Blockchain Association is a “purpose-specific trade group” that signals “the industry’s growing maturity.”