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Sam Bankman-Fried, the former CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, reportedly mulled offering Donald Trump $5 billion to dissuade the U.S. 45th president from running for office again in 2024.
The revelation comes from Michael Lewis, author of "The Big Short" and his new book on the disgraced cryptocurrency exchange founder, "Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon," where he delves into the rise and fall of Bankman-Fried and FTX.
According to Lewis, Bankman-Fried even sought to find out the potential cost of such a proposition.
“That only shocks you if you don't know Sam,” Lewis said in an interview with CBS News’ 60 Minutes aired on Sunday. “Sam's thinking, 'We could pay Donald Trump not to run for president. Like, how much would it take?'"
SBF was trying to pay Trump $5 billion not to run again. pic.twitter.com/ffbmfI3R9F
— Brad Michelson (@BradMichelson) October 2, 2023
According to Lewis, who gained all-hours access to the disgraced crypto mogul, Bankman-Fried saw Trump as someone trying to undermine democracy, thinking that he “belongs on the list of existential risks."
Moreover, there was a specific figure discussed for Trump's withdrawal from the elections.
“The number that was kicking around when I was talking to Sam about this was $5 billion,” stated Lewis, adding that SBF “was not sure that number came directly from Trump.”
Lewis further asserted that SBF was eager to fund Republican candidates at odds with Trump and even approached “the most unlikely of allies”—Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell—and “they were still having these conversations when FTX blew up” in November 2022.
“So why didn't it happen? He didn't have $5 billion anymore,’ said Lewis.
Decrypt has reached out to the offices of both Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell with media inquiries and will update the article should we hear back.
Sam Bankman-Fried's political donations
Before the FTX collapsed last year, Bankman-Fried had been a significant political donor to both Republicans and Democrats, contributing more than $70 million to election campaigns in less than 18 months.
He personally contributed a minimum of $40 million to politicians and political action committees leading up to the 2022 midterm elections. A substantial portion of these contributions went to Democrats and liberal-leaning organizations.
As a result, he ranked as the second-largest overall donor to Democrats behind George Soros only.
Bankman-Fried also donated a significant amount to fundraising committees and super PACs affiliated with both parties, including a $6 million contribution to the House Majority PAC, the main outside group supporting House Democrats.
Bankman-Fried did make donations to Republicans as well. However, the precise amount of his contributions to Republican causes is not disclosed, as they were made as undisclosed "dark" donations.
According to the political finance tracking website Open Secrets, "dark money" refers to spending meant to influence political outcomes where the source of the money is not disclosed.
However, SBF admitted to giving an equal amount to Republicans as he did to Democrats, so his total political contributions may have actually been around $80 million.
The FTX founder, who is set to go on trial this week, is facing 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, has been trying to claw back the donations made by Bankman-Fried and other FTX executives, since the end of last year.