FTX executives, including former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, spent at least $1 million on contributions across the political spectrum in the weeks before the company’s bankruptcy, including a large donation to Senate Republican leadership.
From the end of September to the November midterm elections, which fell just days before FTX declared bankruptcy, almost 180 candidates reported donations from top FTX executives, who in many cases maxed out their contributions to campaigns and leadership political action committees.
That flurry of spending was the cap to at least $72.1 million in campaign and PAC donations over the two-year midterm cycle from the company and its executives, according to Federal Election Commission filings. More than 40 percent of the members of the 118th Congress received financial support from FTX executives and staff in the two years through direct contributions or money spent by super PACs in favor of their campaigns.
Bankman-Fried, who reported $39.9 million in political contributions in 2021 and 2022, faces eight counts of conspiracy and fraud, including an allegation that he violated campaign finance laws. His company, now under the leadership of CEO John J. Ray III, is trying to claw back the donations made by Bankman-Fried and other executives. Many lawmakers earlier said they would donate the contributions to charity.
Bankman-Fried, Co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets Ryan Salame, and FTX Director of Engineering Nishad Singh were the company’s most active political donors.
Salame contributed $121,100 in early October to Team McConnell, a joint-fundraising committee supporting the campaigns of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the 15 incumbent Republican senators who ran for reelection last year. Of that, at least $109,500 made its way to the NRSC.
Overall, FTX-linked donations last election cycle favored Democrats, with at least $44.6 million going to liberal candidates, causes and PACs, and at least $23.9 million going to Republicans. But in the weeks leading up to the election and bankruptcy, the single biggest donation, Salame’s contribution to Team McConnell, went to Senate Republicans.
Even in the final two weeks before the Nov. 11 bankruptcy filing, campaigns continued to report donations from the three FTX executives. From Nov. 2 through the election on Nov. 8, campaigns reported they received $50,285 from the three executives.
On Nov. 9, FTX stopped allowing customers to withdraw their own funds from the exchange. Campaigns reported only three donations after the Nov. 11 bankruptcy, but the date those were sent isn’t certain, as there can be a lag between when a contribution is made and when it is received and reported by a campaign.
Salame led the three executives contributions during the final six weeks, giving at least $471,000 after Sept. 30 and a total of $23.7 million in two years leading up to the midterm elections. Nearly all went to Republican campaigns and PACs.
Engineering head Singh was second in spending after Sept. 30, with a total of at least $418,500. That included a $40,000 donation to a single-candidate super PAC supporting Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., and $36,500 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, both reported Oct. 7. Moskowitz, a freshman, set creating a more secure and competitive marketplace for cryptocurrencies as a campaign priority.
Singh donated at least $8.3 million in the two years leading up to the midterms, largely favoring Democratic candidates and causes.
Bankman-Fried donated at least $148,956 after Sept. 30. In the final weeks before the election and bankruptcy, he donated to 20 candidates, including $10,000 to Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and $7,900 to ranking member Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, through a combination of contributions to campaign and joint-fundraising committees, and leadership PACs.
Influential committees targeted
In the two-year election cycle, FTX executives and staff donated extensively to campaigns of lawmakers seated on committees with potential jurisdiction over the cryptocurrency sector.
In particular, they targeted members of the House and Senate Agriculture panels, as the committees considered legislation favored by the company to establish the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as the primary regulator of bitcoin spot markets. FTX executives and employees spent at least $316,800 through direct contributions in support of lawmakers on those two committees.
Super PACs funded by Bankman-Fried, Salame and Singh spent millions in addition to that in support of incumbents on influential committees during the two-year election cycle, including the Agriculture panels. By law, super PACs cannot coordinate their spending with campaigns or candidates that benefit from it.
They also spent at least $169,650 in support of members of the House Financial Services and Senate Banking committees, and $101,400 on House and Senate tax panels through direct contributions to campaigns, leadership PACs and joint-fundraising committees.
Starting at the end of September, Bankman-Fried, Salame and Singh shored up support for members of House and Senate panels overseeing energy policy and the powerful House and Senate Appropriations committees.
That included at least $117,400 in direct contributions to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, close to evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, and at least $13,700 to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The cryptocurrency industry has come under fire for the energy expended during the mining process.
The three executives also spent heavily in support of members on the influential House and Senate Appropriations committees. In the fourth quarter, they spent at least $114,900 in support of 32 members then seated on the House Appropriations Committee, including 23 of the 26 Republicans on the panel and nine Democrats, plus $28,700 on four members of the Senate Appropriations panel.
During the full two-year cycle, FTX executives and staff gave at least $198,700 in direct contributions in support of lawmakers who were then members of the two committees, including all but two Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee last Congress.