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Billionaire Quant Trader Donates a Record $1.9M of Bitcoin to a Super PAC

Danny Nelson - CoinDesk
2022-10-27 02:38

Jeffrey Yass is the billionaire co-founder of giant trading firm Susquehanna International Group (SIG) and also a political mega donor: he and his wife are the 2022 elections’ fifth-biggest contributors – right behind crypto titan Sam Bankman-Fried.

But when it comes to donating in crypto, Yass outranks even the FTX chief. In early July, Yass gave 100 bitcoin (BTC) then worth more than $1.9 million to “Crypto Freedom PAC,” a representative for the super PAC confirmed to CoinDesk. It is the largest bitcoin-denominated political donation ever recorded by the Federal Election Commission.

“I think Jeff wanted to signal support” for cryptocurrencies, said Joe Kildea, the communications lead for Crypto Freedom PAC and Club for Growth, which are closely linked. Kildea said Crypto Freedom PAC backs candidates who are against government regulation of cryptocurrencies.

A voicemail message seeking a comment from David Pollard, SIG's head of strategic planning and special counsel, wasn't immediately returned.

Yass’ entrance to crypto politics marks a new chapter for a major force in political fundraising. This election cycle, he’s donated over $30 million (most of it in “real” cash, not crypto) to PACs prompting school choice and conservative candidates, including $6.5 million to the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.

It comes as SIG, a major market maker and quant trading firm, continues to build out its crypto businesses with new jobs in its Philadelphia suburbs headquarters and new offices in Bahamas, where Bankman-Fried is also building an offshore crypto business mecca for FTX.

Crypto PACs

Capitol Hill’s increasing spotlight on crypto regulation has spawned a new wave of special interest PACs and pro-industry candidates – and a smattering of small-dollar crypto donations supporting their cause. The result: it’s becoming more common for candidates and PACs to report contributions of bitcoin, ether (ETH) or stablecoins.

But a donation of 100 bitcoin is on another plane entirely. According to federal election disclosure data, Jeff Yass donated $1,941,400 of bitcoin to Crypto Freedom PAC on July 1. The PAC later sold the crypto in tranches through River Financial for $2.6 million, the records show.

“There was some argument over whether we should hold onto it to see if it goes back up, but we needed it for our races,” Kildea said.

He said the PAC supports turning the U.S. into a global home for crypto innovation by limiting government attempts at regulatory overreach. It is backing candidates who share that vision, such as Blake Masters, an Arizona Republican U.S. Senate candidate who is heavily invested in crypto.

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