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FTX CEO and crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried made the bold claim in May that he expected to spend up to, or beyond, $1 billion in political donations in the run-up to the 2024 United States presidential election. Such a political spending spree would have made Bankman-Fried the single largest political donor in the last election—four times over—according to data from OpenSecrets.
Now the billionaire is putting his foot on the brakes, after he says he put his foot in his mouth.
“That was a dumb quote,” Bankman-Fried told Politico’s Morning Money podcast this week of his previous comments on campaign spending. “I think my messaging was sloppy and inconsistent in some cases.”
The Alameda Research founder has reportedly raised closer to $40 million in anticipation of the 2022 midterm elections, primarily via the Protect Our Future PAC, which has donated some $28 million. Most of that has gone to Democratic candidates.
Over $10 million of the PAC’s donations this cycle went to a single Democratic congressional candidate, Oregon’s Carrick Flynn, who lost his primary race in May. Flynn and Bankman-Fried are both vocal supporters of the effective altruism movement, a philosophical school of thought that attempts to prioritize causes that most positively impact all people globally.
Bankman-Fried appears to have cooled on the effectiveness of political donations, which he had previously touted as a key tool in achieving progress in the billionaire’s policy areas of choice: crypto regulation and pandemic preparedness.
For now, he says, the FTX CEO is abstaining from any further political spending.
“At some point, when you’ve given your message to voters, there’s not a whole lot more you can do,” Bankman-Fried said on the podcast.
The billionaire did not clarify whether he would turn the spigot back on in the ramp-up to the 2024 presidential election; Bankman-Fried previously stated he would spend up to $1 billion to prevent Donald Trump from retaking the White House, should the former president run again.
Bankman-Fried did indicate, though, that his brief experience navigating political spending has led him to re-evaluate a once general election-focused strategy.
“I think primaries are more important,” he said. “Frankly, I could try and talk about pandemic preparedness in a general election. But most voters are gonna say,‘That's cool, but like, I'm a Democrat,’ or ‘I'm a Republican.’ That's not going to move the needle enough for me to go over all of the other issues.”
Bankman-Fried’s FTX, meanwhile, has been on a spending spree, propping up and clearing out crypto firms devastated by this year’s market-wide crash. Late last month, reports surfaced that FTX was considering acquiring the assets of defunct crypto lender Celsius. That same week, Bankman-Fried shelled out $1.4 billion to buy bankrupt crypto investment firm Voyager Digital; in June, he spent $250 million to bail out struggling crypto broker BlockFi.
Bankman-Fried said last month he still has $1 billion more to spend on crypto acquisitions and bailouts. It would seem, in the billionaire’s eyes, dominating the weakened crypto market in the private sector has thus far proved a far more effective strategy than attempting to influence affairs of government.