FTX Poured Millions Into Political Campaigns Before Bankruptcy

FTX Poured Millions Into Political Campaigns Before Bankruptcy
Sam Bankman-Fried speaks onstage during the first annual Moonlight Gala benefitting CARE, Children With Special Needs, in New York City on June 23, 2022. (Craig Barritt/Getty Images for CARE For Special Children)
Emel Akan

Former FTX executives contributed significantly to this year’s midterm elections in an effort to gain influence in Washington. After the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange, the big beneficiaries of FTX’s donations have attracted attention.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and two other executives poured more than $70 million into the political parties and groups, making FTX the third-largest donor in the 2022 election cycle.
While Bankman-Fried gave nearly $40 million mainly to Democratic candidates and liberal organizations, his co-CEO, Ryan Salame, donated about $23 million to Republicans and conservative groups in 2022, according to a list compiled by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, a group led by economist Stephen Moore, using OpenSecrets.org data.

The remaining donations came from FTX engineering director Nishad Singh, who gave nearly $13 million to Democrats and liberal causes, the data show.

A former FTX employee who’s familiar with the lobbying effort in Washington and wished to remain anonymous told The Epoch Times that a significant portion of the executives’ political contributions was used to push for “pro-crypto legislation” on Capitol Hill.

Bankman-Fried was a vocal supporter of the bipartisan legislation, the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act of 2022, proposed by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) to fix regulatory gaps in digital commodity trading. According to the data, he donated roughly $5,800 to each senator’s campaign.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) talks during a press conference following the Democrats Policy Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol building on Oct. 26, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) talks during a press conference following the Democrats Policy Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol building on Oct. 26, 2021. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
“I’m optimistic that the Stabenow-Boozman’s bill will provide customer protection on centralized crypto exchanges,” Bankman-Fried wrote on Twitter on Oct. 18, expressing his full support.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who’s expected to succeed Nancy Pelosi as the next House Democratic leader, also received $5,800 from the crypto entrepreneur. Other notable beneficiaries include Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

About $235,000 of Bankman-Fried’s political contributions went to Republicans. Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) were among the Republicans who received donations from the crypto entrepreneur.

Protect Our Future PAC

With nearly $40 million in donations, Bankman-Fried became the Democratic Party’s second-largest donor this year, trailing only George Soros, who gave $128 million.

The majority of Bankman-Fried’s donations, about $27 million, went to the Protect Our Future PAC, a new group that supported candidates committed to preventing future pandemics. And most of that money was spent in the primaries. In the recent election cycle, the group invested about $23.3 million into Democratic Party primaries, which were mostly unsuccessful.

Nearly $10.5 million of the super PAC’s primary funding, according to OpenSecrets, went to support a family friend, Carrick Flynn, who lost by a wide margin to state Rep. Andrea Salinas in Oregon’s 6th Congressional District’s Democratic primary.

According to a Slate article in May, it was an “insane amount of money” for a political newcomer.

Bankman-Fried also provided $6 million to House Majority PAC, affiliated with outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, becoming the fourth-largest individual contributor to the hybrid PAC, according to OpenSecrets. He also gave $500,000 to Senate Majority PAC, aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in Humble, Texas, on Aug. 24, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in Humble, Texas, on Aug. 24, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
The crypto entrepreneur also gave $1 million to Beto O'Rourke’s campaign for the Texas governor’s race, which was the single greatest donation the Democrat received between July 1 and Sept. 29, according to a Bloomberg Tax article.
Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas who just won a third term, reacted to FTX’s collapse on Twitter.

“This guy gave a million dollars to Beto. This Madoff-Style evaporation of customer’s money should be a crime,” Abbott wrote, referring to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of billions of dollars in 2008. “Candidates who received this tainted money should return it so that innocent customers of FTX can get some of their money back.”

In an interview in May, Bankman-Fried suggested that he would invest “north of $100 million” in the next presidential election and had a “soft ceiling” of $1 billion, although he later backtracked on this statement, calling it a “dumb quote.”

The Conservative Donor

While most of the focus has been on Bankman Fried’s donations to Democrats, data also show that Salame, co-CEO of Bahamas-based FTX Digital Markets, donated roughly $23 million to Republican politicians and campaign groups in 2022.
“When you examine FTX efforts to influence Washington, you have to look at both CEOs, not just the eccentric guy wearing the shorts,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who’s the chairman of the Subcommittee on Investor Protection and Capital Markets, said in a statement, criticizing the amount of attention given to Democrats who received funds from Bankman-Fried.

Salame put $15 million into his super PAC, American Dream Federal Action, which backed crypto-friendly Republicans in elections.

Bankman-Fried and Salame were also the biggest donors to GMI PAC, a nonpartisan super PAC that supports cryptocurrency. Together, they gave $3.5 million to GMI PAC.
Salame was also a familiar face on the Long Island campaign trail with girlfriend Michelle Bond, who ran for election to the U.S. House to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District but lost in the Republican primary. Her opponent, Republican Nicholas J. LaLota, won in the general election in November.

Other names who received donations from Salame included Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Reps. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.). Salame also donated to both Lee Zeldin for the New York Governor’s race and Blake Masters for the U.S. Senate election in Arizona.

Some politicians on both sides of the aisle who have accepted donations from FTX executives have already promised to give the money somewhere else to distance themselves from the company.

Emel Akan is a senior White House correspondent for The Epoch Times, where she covers the Biden administration. Prior to this role, she covered the economic policies of the Trump administration. Previously, she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.
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