Winklevoss Twins Donate $4.9 Million to Crypto Group Trying to Influence 2024 Election

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss have donated $4.9 million to the political action committee Fairshake, according to new filings with the U.S. Federal Election Committee. It’s just the latest windfall for Fairshake, which is spending millions to run attack ads against Katie Porter, a Democrat who’s running for Diane Feinstein’s old U.S. Senate seat in California.

The new donation from the Winklevoss twins, first reported by Crypto Telegraph Wednesday, comes after huge players in the crypto industry made large donations to Fairshake starting in late 2023. Ripple Labs and Coinbase donated $20 million and $20.5 million, respectively, according to the latest figures from OpenSecrets. Venture capitalists Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz of the firm a16z have each donated $9.5 million since October 2023, according to OpenSecrets.

The Winklevoss twins are best remembered by some people for their very public tussle with Mark Zuckerberg over Facebook in the social media company’s earliest days. But lately, the Winklevoss brothers have been focused on the world of crypto even though Gemini, the crypto firm they founded in 2014, has hit a rough patch. Gemini was forced to freeze accounts in 2022 in the wake of FTX’s implosion and New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit against Gemini late last year.

Fairshake PAC has set its sights on Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, buying both local broadcast TV ads and digital ads to go after the congresswoman, who is currently running for California’s Senate previously occupied by Dianne Feinstein. The ads don’t make it entirely clear to viewers who’s actually attacking Porter.

“Katie Porter plays us for fools, lecturing California on her values. She claims not to take corporate PAC money. No. Instead, Katie Porter takes her campaign cash directly from Big Pharma, Big Oil, and the Big Bank executives, more than $100,000,” the ad’s narrator claims.

“That’s not shaking up the Senate. It’s deceitful politics as usual. And we won’t be fooled,” the ad continues.

The ad features text that lays out the donations, including a $500 donation from a pharmaceutical executive, a $2,000 donation from a VP at an oil company, and a $2,900 donation from the president of a bank. But there’s some debate about whether these donations, made by individuals who work for these companies rather than the companies themselves, should actually qualify as taking money from those same industries.


In fact, the Sacramento Bee recently wrote an article that explained how characterizing any of these donations as being from Big Pharma, Big Oil, and Big Banks is very misleading. But misleading or not, the ad is hard to escape for YouTube users in California. The ad has been seen over 6 million times on the video-sharing platform according to Google’s Ads Transparency Center.

It’s not entirely clear what Porter did to anger the people at Fairshake, but Porter is running in the primary against fellow Democrats Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Barbara Lee. Steve Garvey, a Republican and former major league baseball player, is also running, though at a distant fourth in the polls. The top two finishers in the March 5 primary will advance to the general election on Nov. 5, even if both are Democrats.

Cryptocurrency didn’t come up during the final debate between the four leading candidates on Tuesday, though Schiff has expressed support for crypto on his campaign website:

California is on the forefront of new developments in technology, from Web3 and quantum computing to cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, as well as biotechnology and climate technology. We need to develop comprehensive regulatory frameworks to ensure that these companies and jobs stay here and grow here, and that the United States remains the global leader in these important new technologies.

Porter’s campaign didn’t respond to emailed questions but a press release on the congresswoman’s website said the attack ads were, “funded by shady crypto billionaires.” Porter also responded to the ads on X last week when the ad really started to blanket the YouTube landscape in California.

“Californians aren’t fooled: Shadowy crypto billionaires don’t want a strong voice for consumers in the Senate. They fear people who call out corporate greed, so they’re spending millions on dishonest dark-money ads against me,” Porter wrote on X on February 13. “Their ads will never stop me from fighting for YOU.”

Fairshake has two affiliated crypto groups, known as Defend American Jobs and Protect Progress, according to the New York Times. Protect Progress is currently running a YouTube ad in support of Shomari Figures, a Democrat who’s running for Congress in Alabama.

With over $85 million in donations, it’s probably safe to say Fairshake isn’t going to stop trying to influence elections with the California primary for the U.S. Senate. This year is a presidential election, after all. And with Bitcoin and Ethereum’s prices both rebounding in recent months, the crypto industry is clearly ready to throw its weight around to influence public policy.

By 111 Tech

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