Crypto Super Pac spends $10m on Katie Porter attack ads in California race | California

A Super Pac backed by the crypto industry has spent $10m on ads opposing Katie Porter’s run for US Senate in California, as the young progressive congresswoman fights a tough battle to make it into a November Senate runoff with the Democratic frontrunner Adam Schiff.

The Fairshake Pac announced early this year that it had raised $85m from leaders across the crypto community for the Pac and its affiliates, with the goal of supporting “leaders who champion the interests of progressive innovation and responsible regulation”.

One of the Pac’s most prominent investments so far is in the race for Senate in California, which is home to Silicon Valley. As a congresswoman representing southern California, Porter has become famous for grilling powerful CEOs, and has raised questions about the energy required to create cryptocurrency and whether this energy use is contributing to the climate crisis. Porter joined Elizabeth Warren in 2022 to launch an investigation into whether cryptocurrency mining in Texas was having an impact on the state’s electrical grid and on electricity prices for ordinary consumers.

In contrast, Schiff, the southern California congressman who is leading the California Senate race, mentions cryptocurrency and blockchain technology on his campaign website as “important new technologies”, and calls for regulation that will “ensure that these companies and jobs stay here and grow here”.

Fairshake’s contributors include Andreessen Horowitz, a leading venture capital firm, which has given Fairshake at least $20m, and Coinbase, which operates a cryptocurrency exchange platform and has given Fairshake at least $20.5m, according to Federal Election Commission filings and spokespeople for the companies. The tech venture capitalist Fred Wilson has given at least $1m, and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the tech investor twins who run the Gemini Trust cryptocurrency exchange, have given $100,000, according to FEC filings.

“We are making sure the 8 million crypto owners in California – who are disproportionately young voters who support Democrats – know about [Porter’s] hostility toward the technology and how that would hurt American jobs,” Josh Vlasto, a spokesperson for Fairshake, said in a statement. Vlasto said the ad buys targeting Porter had reached $10m as of Wednesday this week.

Porter’s campaign has argued the Pac’s big-dollar spending against her is only more proof of her commitment to championing ordinary people.

“These baseless dark money ads have nothing to do with crypto and everything to do with a handful of greedy billionaires trying to rig an election. They’re spending more than $10m to keep Katie out of the Senate because they know she will stand up for Californians and take on powerful special interests like them in Washington,” a campaign spokesperson, Lindsay Reilly, said.

Some of Fairshake’s anti-Porter video ads, which Vlasto said had also been running on television, take aim at one of the cornerstones of the congresswoman’s campaign, her pledge not to take money from corporate Pacs, federal lobbyists, or big pharma, big oil and the big bank executives, calling her a hypocrite and a fake. A fact-checker for the Sacramento Bee called one of the ads “mostly false” and said it was “misleading to viewers”.

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On YouTube, the two video attack ads had received a total of 5m views.

Fairshake’s spokesperson said the Pac was also making targeted digital ad buys that would push ads about Porter directly to crypto owners and supporters on social media.

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