'Facebook Twins' Awarded State Approval Weeks After $100K Cuomo Donation, Says Report

Weeks before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration granted approval to an exchange run by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of Fairfield County to trade a new cryptocurrency, the twins donated a combined $100,000 to Cuomo's reelection campaign, according to this report by Sludge. 

Tyler Winklevoss at a HackHarvard hacknight event at Harvard University where he knew future Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Tyler Winklevoss at a HackHarvard hacknight event at Harvard University where he knew future Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Cameron Winklevoss at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Cameron Winklevoss at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Winklevoss twins, made famous by their portrayal in the film “The Social Network,” which focused on the launch of Facebook, donated $50,000 apiece to Cuomo’s campaign in late April, finance records filed with the state Board of Election show. Three weeks later, the state’s Department of Financial Services—controlled by the Democratic governor—approved the Winklevoss’ Gemini Trust to trade Zcash, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash on its virtual currency exchange, Sludge reported.

The Winklevoss twins went to the Greenwich Country Day School before attending the Brunswick School for high school. They were born in Southampton on Long Island and grew up in Greenwich.

The twins competed in the men's pair rowing event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They are known for co-founding HarvardConnection -- later renamed ConnectU.  

In 2004, the Winklevoss brothers sued Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, claiming he stole their ConnectU idea to create his popular social networking site. They ultimately received $65 million. Zuckerberg is a native of White Plains who grew up in Dobbs Ferry and attended Ardsley High School.

Gemini Trust was one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges granted a charter by the Department of Financial Services in October 2015.

Winklevoss Capital lists Zcash as one of the company’s investments. New York state’s approval allowed Gemini to become the world’s first licensed Zcash exchange, leading to a surge in the value of the cryptocurrency. 

The brothers, whose only other political contributions in New York are $500 each to a former state senator in 2014, again donated large sums to Cuomo in late June, Sludge reported: Records show that the Winklevoss’ gave a combined $30,000 to Cuomo’s reelection campaign on June 20.

Sludge also reported that the twin brothers co-hosted a beachfront fundraiser last weekend for the Democratic governor in Montauk, Long Island that included two of Cuomo’s daughters.

The Cuomo administration has come under federal pay-to-play scrutiny: a grand jury found one of Cuomo’s top economic development architects guilty on charges connected to a bid-rigging scheme that steered millions in state contracts in Buffalo to favored companies that contributed campaign cash. 

“We appreciate their support,” Cuomo campaign spokeswoman Abbey Collins told Sludge in an email after its story was published. “No contribution of any size influences any government action.”

A spokeswoman for Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss wrote in an email to Sludge: “Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss have supported – and continue to support – many effective leaders around the country. They contributed to Gov. Cuomo’s campaign because they believe he’s doing a great job, is a problem-solver, and is definitely the right person to lead New York in the years ahead.”

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