The CEO and founder of FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried, gave his first interview following his company's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to journalist Tiffany Fong, which was released Tuesday.
During the interview, Bankman-Fried addressed multiple questions, namely his donations to members of the Democratic Party and the laundering of money to Ukraine.
Democratic Party Donations
Sam claims rumors about him being one of the largest donors to the Democratic Party are misleading, claiming he donated equally to Republicans via "dark" money.
"I donated to both parties," Bankman-Fried told Fong with a sigh. "I donated the same amount to both parties ... All my Republican donations were dark ... And the reason was not for regulatory reasons, it's because reporters freak the f**k out if you donate to a Republican. I'm a true liberal, and I didn't want to have that fight."
According to The Daily Caller, "Bankman-Fried's FTX is currently under investigation by the CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)" after he "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."
But, before the CFTC's probe into Bankman-Fried, the former head of FTX aggressively lobbied the agency — and funded several key lawmakers overseeing it, pouring cash into their campaign coffers.
They include lawmakers from the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, the agency that oversees the CFTC. Lawmakers on the receiving end of Bankman-Fried's contributions include the committee's chairwoman, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the committee's ranking member, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and ranking member of the Risk Management and Trade Committee, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
In addition to lobbying regulators of his own industry, Bankman-Fried was once one of the Democratic Party's preeminent donors. As Marketwatch reported, Bankman-Fried "contributed more than $5 million to Joe Biden and groups supporting him during his 2020 presidential campaign. He said he was motivated by Biden's 'generic stability and decision-making process.'"
As OpenSecrets reported, he gave Democrats nearly $37 million in the 2021-2022 election cycle, only surpassed by George Soros's $128 million.
In May, the 30-year-old billionaire, at the time, said he expected to contribute "north of $100 million" to Democrats in the 2024 presidential election but pledged a "soft ceiling" of $1 billion to the party if former President Donald Trump ran again.
Ukraine Money Laundering
Bankman-Fried demurred on the allegations that aid that was given to Ukraine was then deposited into FTX's exchange and surreptitiously pulled to donate to the Democratic Party.
"I wish I could have pulled that off," he said. "I wish ... I ... I didn't fully understand the goal of it? I was helping Ukraine launder funds to the Democratic Party? I don't know about Ukraine laundering funds for the Democratic Party. I don't know why they would; I don't know how they would ... But I wish I was part of an international conspiracy."
On two occasions while the war in Ukraine was boiling over, Bankman-Fried, according to White House visitor logs, met with one of Biden's top advisers, Steve Ricchetti.
But roughly two weeks after the outbreak of the war Feb. 24, Sam's brother, Gabe Bankman-Fried, who handles the billionaire's political operations, according to The Washington Free Beacon, visited the White House alongside Democrat strategist Jenna Narayanan on March 7.
Exactly one week later, on March 14, according to a report from CoinDesk, the Ukrainian government launched a cryptocurrency donation website backed by FTX — Aid for Ukraine.
The now-defunct website had the backing of crypto exchange FTX, staking platform Everstake, and Ukraine's Kuna exchange, which routed donated cryptocurrency to the National Bank of Ukraine, Everstake's Head of Growth Vlad Likhuta told CoinDesk.
In an Everstake press release, also marked March 14, the company said, "Aid For Ukraine is cooperating with the cryptocurrency exchange FTX which converts crypto funds received into fiat and sends the donations to the National Bank of Ukraine. This marks the first-ever instance of a cryptocurrency exchange directly cooperating with a public financial entity to provide a conduit for crypto donations. Earlier this month, FTX already converted $1 million worth of SOL and transferred it to the National Bank of Ukraine."
In the press release, Sam says, "at the onset of the conflict in Ukraine, FTX felt the need to provide assistance in any way it could. By working with the Ministry of Digital Transformation to set up payment rails and facilitate the conversion of crypto donations into fiat currency, we have given the National Bank of Ukraine the ability to deliver aid and resources to the people who need it most. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Sergey and the Everstake team as they continue to work tirelessly in helping Ukrainians as they suffer from this conflict."
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