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Politicians Are Giving Back Their Donations From Disgraced FTX Founder

A few politicians have given back or re-gifted donations received from FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, but most have so far remained silent.

4 min read
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U.S. politicians, many of them Democrats, have been very publicly returning—or giving away—campaign donations from former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.

Even before his crypto exchange and trading desk, FTX.com and Alameda Research, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Bankman-Fried was drawing criticism for the $46.5 million he donated to political candidates. 

Source: OpenSecrets

A public spreadsheet shared by OpenSecrets.org, a nonprofit that tracks U.S. campaign finance and lobbying, shows that the vast majority of those donations have gone to Democrats. The $46.5 million total ranks Bankman-Fried second only to Democratic mega donor George Soros.

What follows is a list of politicians who’ve returned or said they were re-donating the money received from Bankman-Fried to a charitable organization. Their returned or re-donated contributions represent $1.2 million of Bankman-Fried’s political contributions—roughly 3% of all his campaign donations.

Among the politicians who received money from Bankman-Fried but either haven’t returned or re-gifted the money (or haven’t said publicly that they did) are: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who co-sponsored the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act with Sen. John Boozman (R-AR); Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who’s been vocal in calling for stronger investor protections after FTX’s collapse; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); and Mitt Romney (R-UT).
The full list of recipients can be found on OpenSecrets.

Beto O’Rourke: $1 million

A spokesman for Beto O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign told The Texas Tribune that he returned a $1 million donation—one of the largest single checks it had received—to Sam Bankman-Fried a week before FTX filed for bankruptcy.

“This contribution was unsolicited and the campaign’s upcoming [Texas Ethics Commission] report will show that it was returned back on November 4, prior to the news stories that would later come out about the donor,” the spokesperson said.  

O’Rourke also received $100,000 from former FTX head of engineering, Nishad Singh, but hasn’t yet said whether that money has also been returned.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): $2,900

An aide for Sen. Dick Durbin, who joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) earlier this month in calling on Bankman-Fried and current FTX CEO John Ray III to provide answers to lawmakers about the company’s collapse, told CNBC that the senator has donated $2,900 he received from Bankman-Fried to “an appropriate charity.” 

OpenSecrets data shows that the former FTX CEO also gave $5,000 to Prairie PAC, a leadership political action committee that raised $240,000 for Durbin in the 2022 cycle. The senator’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the PAC donation from Decrypt.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): $16,600

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told Yahoo Finance that she planned to donate the $16,600 she’s received from Bankman-Fried to Ariva Inc., a Bronx charity that provides free financial counseling and tax services in New York.

In June, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) cosponsoredintroduced the Responsible Financial Innovation Act , which she co-sponsored with Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). At the time, it was said that the bill would end the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s oversight of most of the crypto industry, create a $200 tax exemption for reporting gains on tax returns and shift regulatory responsibilities to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

It was last discussed during a Senate banking committee hearing on November 15, but not yet been put to a vote.

Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL): $2,900

Rep. Jesus Garcia donated $2,900—the same amount Bankman-Fried gave to his 2022 campaign—to the Northwest Center in Chicago. The nonprofit providers financial literacy services. Over the summer, the former FTX CEO donated $27 million to the Protect Our Future PAC, which then made a contribution to Garcia’s campaign.

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR): $5,800

Sen. John Boozman told The Wall Street Journal that he would be donating the money received from Bankman-Fried to charity. The Arkansas senator co-sponsored the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act (DCCPA) with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The former FTX CEO was very supportive of it, but took some heat for his support because the DCCPA was viewed as potentially harmful to decentralized finance.

Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to include Sen. Boozman's donations.

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