Dem Mega-Donor Under Federal Investigation Bankrolled Lawmakers Overseeing Agency He Was Lobbying

By Published on November 13, 2022

  • Cryptocurrency CEO and Democratic donor Sam Bankman-Fried funded the campaigns of key lawmakers overseeing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the agency tasked with regulating the crypto industry, as he was lobbying the CFTC for greater oversight over the digital asset marketplace.
  • Bankman-Fried donated to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the committee that has jurisdiction over the CFTC, as well as numerous other members of Congress involved in CFTC oversight.
  • The FTX CEO also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying lawmakers and the CFTC on legislation that would expand the scope of the agency’s role in regulating the crypto industry.

Sam Bankman-Fried, prolific Democratic donor and ex-CEO of now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, funded the campaigns of members of Congress overseeing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), one of the key bodies tasked with regulating the crypto industry and the subject of Bankman-Fried’s aggressive lobbying.

Bankman-Fried’s FTX is currently under investigation by the CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after Bankman-Fried allegedly moved $10 billion in client assets from his crypto exchange to his trading firm Alameda Research, and a liquidity crisis at his  exchange which prompted the company to file for bankruptcy. However, prior to the agency’s probe, Bankman-Fried aggressively courted the CFTC – and funded several key lawmakers charged with overseeing the agency, pouring cash into their campaign coffers.

The CFTC is charged with regulating certain elements of the crypto marketplace, including digital assets that are commodities as well as crypto exchanges and clearinghouses. The agency is overseen by the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, with the former tasked with approving CFTC commissioners nominated by the president.

The former FTX CEO personally donated to the Senate committee’s chairwoman, Democratic Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, contributing over $20,000 to the Stabenow Victory Fund and $5,800 to her campaign for Senate. Bankman-Fried donated roughly $6,000 to the committee’s ranking member, Republican Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, as well, and $5,800 to the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management and Trade, Republican Montana Sen. John Hoeven.

The offices of Stabenow, Boozman and Hoeven did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.

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More significantly, American Dream Federal Action, a political action committee founded by FTX executive Ryan Salame, spent over $1 million on Boozman during the 2022 election cycle, according to campaign finance records, and over $1 million on House Agriculture Committee member and Republican Minnesota Rep. Brad Finstad.

Bankman-Fried is also a key funder of the Protect Our Future PAC, which primarily works to elect Democrats, bankrolling the group to the tune of $27 million this election cycle. The PAC spent over $1 million funding Democratic Ohio Rep. Shontel Brown, a member of the House Agriculture Committee.

Bankman-Fried donated roughly $6,000 to ousted Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chair Sean Patrick Maloney, who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, and over $200,000 to Maloney’s DCCC.

Bankman-Fried also contributed almost $6,000 to Senate Agriculture Committee member and Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and roughly $6,000 to committee member and Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign, with another $10,000 to the Gillibrand Victory Fund.

Brown, Maloney, Gillibrand and Booker did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment, nor did Protect Our Future.

In addition to his campaign contributions to the lawmakers tasked with CFTC oversight, Bankman-Fried sought closer relations with the agency itself.

Bankman-Fried personally lobbied for legislation in the Senate Agriculture Committee that would grant the CFTC greater regulatory oversight over the crypto industry, according to Coindesk, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying the CFTC, SEC and members of Congress on the legislation.

The bill, known as the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act, which would grant the CFTC “jurisdiction to oversee the spot digital commodity market,” was introduced by Stabenow, Boozman, Booker and Republican North Dakota Sen. John Thune, three of whom are beneficiaries of Bankman-Fried’s donations.

For its lobbying team, FTX hired former Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, longtime chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and committee staffer Scott Graves to lobby lawmakers on crypto-related issues.

FTX also hired former CFTC commissioner Mark Wetjen to head its regulatory policy department Nov. 1, and former CFTC commissioner Jill Sommers to head up its derivatives division in September.

In addition to the aforementioned contributions, Bankman-Fried spent much larger sums on electing Democrats, donating$6 million to the House Majority PAC. He was also the second-largest individual donor to President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign, donating over $5 million.

Moreover, Bankman-Fried’s mother, Barbara Fried, runs a Democrat-linked dark money group known as Mind the Gap. FTX engineering chief Nishad Singh most recently donated $1 million to the organization.

FTX, Bankman-Fried and the CFTC did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment. American Dream Federal Action could not be reached for comment.

 

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