FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried hit with campaign finance complaint

Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and chief executive officer of FTX cryptocurrency derivatives exchange, during an interview on an episode of Bloomberg Wealth with David Rubenstein in New York, US, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

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An ethics watchdog group asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried for alleged “serious violations” of election law, citing his admitted contributions of “dark” money to Republican-aligned groups during the 2022 primary season asked to do.

The complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington cites an interview with Bankman-Fried last month, in which the group alleges she donated $37 million or more to GOP-linked campaign efforts in a way that was not legal. necessary public disclosure to be avoided. contribution.

The complaint comes nearly a month after cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which was valued at $32 billion by private investors earlier this year, filed for bankruptcy protection, and Bankman-Fried, 30, stepped down as CEO. Gave.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice are reportedly investigating him and the shocking collapse of FTX and related crypto entities.

CREW’s complaint states that Bankman-Fried has admitted in her own words that she intentionally discredited GOP-affiliated groups in order to avoid public reporting requirements by “taking advantage” of the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United v. FEC case. Created a charity structure that allowed unions and corporations to independently spend on their own campaigns.

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“The case does not, however, allow the organizations to act as pass-throughs for the contributions of others or to make independent expenditures while keeping their own contributors secret,” Crew’s complaint states.

A spokeswoman for Bankman-Fried had no immediate comment on Crews’ complaint. The FEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Anyone who suspects a violation of federal election campaign laws may file a complaint with the FEC. According to the commission’s webpage, if the FEC determines that a violation has occurred, potential consequences “can range from a letter reiterating compliance obligations to a settlement agreement, which may include a monetary civil penalty”.

CREW’s complaint states that Bankman-Fried, “until recently, was known to be a crypto-currency billionaire and top Democratic contributor,” who “recently admitted during a public interview that he had in the past Contributed ‘dark’ money to support Republicans in federal elections in the 2016 cycle.”

In that interview, he suggested that those donations would make him one of the largest donors to Republicans in the United States.

The complaint includes a link to a November 16 interview Bankman-Fried gave to Tiffany Fong, who posted the discussion on her YouTube channel.

He said in that interview, “I donated to both the parties. I donated equal amount to both the parties this year.”

“It was not generally known, because in spite of [the Supreme Court decision known as] Citizens United is the highest profile Supreme Court case of the decade and the thing everyone talks about when they talk about campaign finance, for some reason, in practice, no one can possibly fathom the idea. Could feel that in practice someone had really given in to the darkness,” he added.

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“All my Republican donations were black,” Bankman-Fried said, the complaint said. “The reason was not a regulatory reason.”

He said, “It’s because if you donate to a Republican, reporters are scared because they’re all super liberal. And I didn’t want that fight.” “So, I blacked out all the Republicans. But, whatever, [indiscernible] Second or third largest Republican donor this year as well.”

In interviews, Bankman-Fried stated that those contributions were “all for the primary”.

“I didn’t give a damn about the general election because I don’t give a — about the general election,” he said. “That’s all that matters. Like, this is a primary where good candidates are up against bad candidates.”

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CREW’s complaint states that the campaign finance tracking site OpenSecrets reported that Bankman-Fried gave nearly $40 million in federal contributions over the 2022 election cycle, most of which went to “Democratic-aligned outside groups.”

OpenSecrets, which cites public FEC records, reports that he has contributed approximately $922,000 to Democratic candidates.

In contrast, Bankman-Fried gave only $240,200 to groups outside the Republican-aligned coalition and $80,200 to GOP candidates in the same election cycle, according to OpenSecrets data cited by the complaint.

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The complaint states, “By following through on his words, Mr. Bankman-Fried was able to direct approximately $37 million and potentially much more to influence federal elections, while avoiding federal laws about the actual amount of contributions.” Requires disclosure of source.”

In addition to Bankman-Fried, the complaint lists unnamed people or entities as respondents who allegedly participated in “Bankman-Fried’s scheme” to conceal reportable contributions to influence federal elections.

CREW notes that federal law prohibits the use of middlemen who are falsely identified as sources of campaign contributions in place of the actual source of funds.

In a statement, CREW’s general counsel, Donald Sherman, said, “Bankman-Fried said the quiet part loud.”

“He admitted that he violated federal laws to ensure that Americans had transparency in funding elections and now he must be held accountable,” Sherman said.

CNBC reported Tuesday that FTX’s then-director of engineering Nishad Singh donated more than $13 million to Democratic Party causes since the start of the 2020 presidential election cycle, including $8 million to federal campaigns in the 2022 cycle. moved towards.

Singh, who left FTX when it collapsed, was the 34th largest donor to all federal campaigns during the recent elections.

OpenSecrets data shows Ryan Salaam, who was co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets, donated $23 million during the 2022 midterm cycle, all of which went to Republican-affiliated groups or candidates, according to a CNBC article mentioned.

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