Crypto war of words escalates as Coin Center hits back at ‘impertinent’ Senator Warren

Policy group ‘declines’ to answer questions it brands a threat to constitutional rights.

Major crypto players are “spending millions … to stonewall common sense rules designed to restrict the use of crypto for terror financing”, according to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in a letter sent to crypto think tank Coin Center, the Blockchain Association and the Coinbase exchange. Now Coin Center CEO Jerry Brito has branded Senator Warren as “impertinent” and guilty of a “bullying publicity stunt” in a reply stating Coin Center will not be answering her questions.

The row comes in the wake of last week’s SEC approval of spot bitcoin ETFs, a move Warren also had strong words about. She said the SEC was “wrong on the law and wrong on the policy with respect to the bitcoin ETF decision”, adding “If the SEC is going to let crypto burrow even deeper into our financial system, then it’s more urgent than ever that crypto follow basic anti-money-laundering rules.”

Brito published Warren’s original letter on his X – formerly Twitter – account, saying “read it for yourself”. He also published Coin Center’s reply, which said the organization had no legal obligation to answer the questions posed.

Warren quoted an article in Politico to allege the three bodies she wrote to were deploying “a small army of former defense, national security and law enforcement officials” as part of a drive by the crypto sector to “give itself a veneer of legitimacy while fighting tooth and nail to stonewall common sense rules designed to restrict the use of crypto for terror financing”. 

She asked for details of how many former military or government post holders were employed lobbying on behalf of the organizations, what their responsibilities were and what activities they had been involved in, whether or not they were contacted while still employed by the government, and whether the organizations had a code of ethics restricting contact with active government officials.

Constitutional rights

Coin Center’s reply pulled few punches, saying: “Free speech and petitioning the government are fundamental rights protected by our constitution. Your letter, which you made public, discourages participation in important public policy debates and chills those rights”.

It objects to the characterization of “our good-faith engagement with ‘stonewalling’ and ‘undermining’ congressional efforts” and said the letter “repeatedly and inappropriately invoked the events of October 7 alongside child abuse and crime, as if we are indifferent or complicit in these tragedies”.

The reply goes on the front foot to state that legislative measures currently being pursued by Warren “would not only do nothing to address the problem, they waste time and energy that could be properly spent on proven approaches like enforcing existing law against foreign rogue exchanges that are inevitably at the center of terrorist use of crypto”.


The letter concludes that “we politely decline to offer further answers to your questions”, citing an absence of “long-standing norms of civility, respectful debate, and compromise”.

The legislation referred to is the Crypto-Asset National Security Enhancement and Enforcement Act of 2023 (the CANSEE Act) and Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2023 (DAAMLA), both of which were introduced by Warren. Coin Center views them as “unfair, unworkable, and most importantly, unconstitutional”.

Last week’s approval of spot bitcoin ETFs may have led some observers to wonder if the crypto winter is over, but it is clear relations between the sector and at least one leading Congressional voice remain icy.