Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has been a prolific political donor, pumping about $40 million into campaign committees and other groups mostly linked to Democrats this cycle alone, federal filings show.
His contributions are under scrutiny as federal prosecutors alleged on Tuesday that Bankman-Fried violated campaign finance laws by soliciting donations from his related crypto hedge fund Alameda Research and falsely reporting them as coming from someone else.
His generosity for democratic causes has been surpassed only by George Soros, the liberal financier, in the past two years. Bankman-Fried has claimed he has donated just as much to GOP causes, but through nonprofit groups that are not required to disclose their donors. Much of the money Bankman-Fried gave went to super PACs. These groups, which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and companies, must remain formally separate from campaigns when serving ads or sponsoring other communications Support or reject candidates.
Federal campaign records show he gave a combined $7 million to the two main super-PACs supporting Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2022 election. He also gave to groups focused on voter turnout, in certain cases shelling out millions for very specific races.
Bankman-Fried also provided 95 percent of the funding for Protect Our Future, a fledgling Democracy-leaning super-PAC that supported a wide range of candidates and causes. Its leaders described it as committed to the principles of effective altruism, an approach to philanthropy that seeks to use data to allocate money effectively, in many cases to long-term threats. Among the causes championed by candidates backed by Protect Our Future was preparing for a pandemic.
Protect Our Future spent more than $10 million to support an unsuccessful candidate in the Democratic primary for an open seat in the US House of Representatives in Oregon. The nominee, Carrick Flynn, is a believer in the philosophy of effective altruism who is said to have directed the PAC’s fundraising. (He lost the primary to state legislator Andrea Salinas, who won the general election.)
Bankman-Fried has acknowledged in interviews in recent weeks that corporate philanthropy, including his own, is often aimed at eliciting good PR.
His desire to diversify his resources is evident in the number of politicians he endorsed: he contributed to more than 60 federal candidates, including members of both parties, representing all corners of the country. Unlike his donations to Super PACs, Bankman-Fried had limitations with these donations. Federal law states that individual donors can donate up to $2,900 directly to a candidate committee for each election — that is, once in the primary and again generally, for a maximum of $5,800 per cycle.
This analysis counts contributions and reimbursements to and from federal policy committees, reported or received by Bankman-Fried in reports filed with the FEC since 2020. This excludes contributions to joint fundraising and conduit committees to avoid recounting funds when those contributions are later transferred to campaigns and parties. This does not apply to monies donated by other FTX employees, the company itself, or groups that do not disclose their donors.
Edited by Mike Madden, Kate Rabinowitz and Karly Domb Sadof.