Beluga Spotlight: Kristin Smith, CEO of Blockchain Association

By  Will McKinnon March 26, 2024

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About Kristin

Kristin is CEO of the Blockchain Association, the Washington DC-based trade association representing nearly 100 of the industry's leading companies. Kristin serves as a liaison between policymakers and the cryptocurrency industry to assist in the creation of legislation and regulation that promotes the growth of the cryptocurrency ecosystem in the U.S.

She is also a leading, public voice advocating for the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry through top-tier media interviews, op-eds and letters to the editor, and global speaking engagements. Kristin is a renowned voice for the industry, having been featured on Fortune's 2020 40 under 40 in Government and Politics, CoinDesk's 2021 50 people who defined the year in crypto, and CoinTelegraph's 2022 top 100 Influencers in Crypto and Blockchain.

Prior to leading the Blockchain Association, Kristin helped technology companies achieve their public policy objectives in Washington. She served as a Senate and congressional aide on Capitol Hill for nearly ten years, much of which was spent focusing on technology policy. Kristin is an advisor to multiple start-ups and serves on the boards of Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web and Skybridge Capital's G and GII Funds.

Interview

1. You had a very successful career as a lobbyist in Washington DC. How did you end up in crypto?

Prior to leading the Blockchain Association, I worked at a multi-client firm helping technology companies achieve their public policy objectives in Washington. Before that, I served as a Senate and Congressional aide on Capitol Hill for nearly ten years, much of which was spent focusing on technology policy. I focused on Internet policy around the time that Web 1 was becoming Web 2. When I learned about Bitcoin and blockchain, I realized that there was an opportunity to bring the web back in line with its early, decentralized vision.

2. What does the Blockchain Association do? And What are your goals or mission?

We are the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a pro-innovation policy environment for the digital asset economy. We work with our members to educate policymakers about blockchain technology and its ability to pave the way for a more secure, competitive, and consumer-friendly digital marketplace. Our mission is to advance the future of crypto in the United States, promoting the potential of blockchain technology and shaping policy that ensures its success.

3. What are some of the projects or campaigns that you've worked on?

We have skilled teams focused on four major areas: policy, legal, government relations, and communications. The industry really came of age in DC during the fight over the 2021 Infrastructure Bill, where we helped organize a policy response and support grassroots efforts to push back on harmful legislation. Since then we have worked to build out our impact litigation strategy, filing numerous amicus briefs in critical cases for the industry. We also have published countless memos and research papers providing policy analysis for our members. Our lobbyists are constantly in meetings on the Hill working to educate policymakers on our industry, and we have run public-facing campaigns that include websites, ads, and op-eds. Much of our work can be found on the BA website.

4. Crypto companies like Coinbase have started spending time and money in Washington DC. What effect is this having on the industry?

The increased involvement of crypto companies like Coinbase in Washington DC signifies a growing recognition of the importance of regulatory engagement within the industry. By investing time and resources into lobbying efforts and building relationships with policymakers, these companies aim to influence regulatory decisions that could significantly impact their operations. This proactive approach can lead to more favorable regulatory outcomes, increased clarity in the regulatory environment, and potentially foster greater mainstream adoption of digital assets.

5. Based on your previous history in politics, is crypto legislation moving slower or faster than you expected versus other industries you've been involved with?

The crypto industry as a whole moves incredibly quickly. The innovative potential of this technology seems almost limitless, and every day is different working in the space. We have seen some progress in legislation, but regulation certainly isn't moving as quickly as the technology is, and there are times when slow lawmaking has hindered blockchain's potential, especially in the U.S. We are seeing more policymakers become interested in the space and we are excited to work with them on passing sensible regulation going forward.

6. Several presidential candidates like Vivek Ramaswami and RFK Jr have been strong supporters of crypto. Do you think crypto will be a topic for this year's presidential election?

Yes, I believe that crypto will come up more this year than in past elections. We have already seen some presidential hopefuls be asked about the industry and expect that more questions will arise as the election progresses. It's estimated that over 50 million Americans own crypto so it is no surprise that this is becoming a topic of discussion in national politics.

7. Do you see congress passing any rules around crypto or stablecoins this year or in 2025?

We are hopeful that clear regulation for stablecoins will soon be passed that will help the U.S. harness the power of crypto by spreading the dollar's influence around the globe. Timelines for this potential regulation will be influenced by the Congressional calendar and the upcoming elections.

8. What would you like to see congress or the SEC do? Would you like to see a Crypto Czar position created in the government?

We are actively working with Congress to pass fair and clear regulation as quickly as possible. Like the regulators, BA believes it is essential for investors and US users to be protected. However, we believe this goal can be achieved while allowing crypto development to flourish in the U.S. and solidifying our country as a leader in the space. We would like the SEC and Congress to be open to more education and conversation so that we can finally achieve sensible regulatory standards for blockchain. We do believe that regulators need to have a deeper understanding of blockchain technology in order to make informed decisions on how to regulate it. A "Crypto Czar" would perhaps not be as effective as separate, experienced regulators in multiple agencies across the government working collaboratively.

10. How close are you involved or following regulations in Europe and other countries?

While the BA staff, including myself, do monitor regulation in other countries, BA as a trade association does not deal with issues outside the U.S. Our focus is on seeing that the U.S. becomes a leader in the space and not lose that opportunity to countries that are taking a more proactive approach to pro-innovative policies.

11. What are you most excited about for the next couple of years?

I think there are many exciting things happening in the industry, and as we exit what has been a challenging period for the space we will likely see even more innovation happening and at a faster pace. I think we are at a point of no return in terms of crypto. It is here to stay, and with that reality sinking in, I think regulators will be forced to take a more proactive approach. I look forward to collaborating with policymakers on laws that will ensure that crypto continues to work for all of us.