Bankman-Fried spent millions on Dem campaigns

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Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dozens of congressional candidates — mostly Democrats — have received campaign contributions or indirect financial support from Sam Bankman-Fried, the crypto mogul whose business collapsed last week.

The big picture: It’s unclear where Bankman-Fried’s money came from. Forensic accountants and bankruptcy courts are on the case, but it could take months to untangle FTX’s mixed fund network.

  • Many campaigns, including some of the losing campaigns, have already spent direct donations.
  • Others have considered returning the direct donations, but don’t want to be seen as helping to fund Bankman-Fried’s legal defense.
  • Another option is to donate the money to charity, as Reps. Chuy Garcia (D-IL) and Kevin Hurn (R-OK) recently did.

By the numbers: Bankman-Fried spent about $37 million during the last election cycle, almost all of which went to promoting Democratic candidates and causes. That makes him the second largest donor to the party, according to OpenSecrets, and sixth overall.

  • The biggest expense was $27 million for a Democratic political action committee called Protect Our Future.
  • Its beneficiaries include: Carrick Flynn ($10.5 million), who lost a Democratic primary in Oregon’s 6th District; incumbent Georgia Representative Lucy McBath ($2 million) and incoming Texas Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett ($1.5 million).
  • Other winning campaigns that Protect Our Future has spent at least $1 million on include Valerie Fouschee (D-NC), Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH), and Robert Garcia (D-CA). Adam Holler, a Michigan Democrat who lost, also received $1 million in PAC support.
  • Axios reached out to each of these applicants for comment, but received no official response.
  • He also donated more than half a million dollars to the Democratic National Committee, which also did not return requests for comment, and donated to Congressional and Senate campaign committees for both gone.
  • Bankman-Fried also made maximum donations to many individual candidates, including Republican Senators John Hoeven (RN.D.) and John Boozman (R-AR).

Somewhere else: Ryan Salame, one of Bankman-Fried’s top lieutenants at FTX, was also a major political donor in the 2021-2022 election cycle.

  • His $19 million in spending all went to Republican candidates and committees, and made him the 10th-largest GOP donor.

The big picture: Last spring, Bankman-Fried pledged to spend more than $1 billion on the 2024 election, especially if Donald Trump ran.

  • “[$1 billion] is a decent thing to consider as a – I’d hate to say a hard cap, because who knows what’s going to happen by then – but at least some kind of soft cap,” Bankman-Fried said earlier this year on the Podcast What’s your problem.

The bottom line: The business and tech worlds are still trying to digest the sudden implosion of FTX and limit any possible contagion. The political world will have to deal with its own kind of loss, including the fallout for those who have unknowingly received ill-gotten gains.

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