Representatives from political campaigns, both Democrat and Republican, are being questioned by federal prosecutors in Manhattan about the millions of dollars in donations they got from FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and two of the cryptocurrency exchange's former executives.
According to sources close to the matter, a law firm that represents several powerful Democrat political organizations, including the party's largest super PACS, its official campaign arms group, and the campaigns of politicians like Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the newly-elected party leader replacing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has gotten an email seeking information about the donations they got from Bankman-Fried and his companies, reports The New York Times.
The prosecutors are also investigating donations made to GOP campaigns and committees by a FTX executive described as a top financier favoring candidates from the right, another source said.
Bankman-Fried was arrested last week, and is the only executive for the company who has been charged criminally. Even though FTX and its associated businesses only started a few years ago, in the months before the 2020 election, he donated nearly $45 million to political campaigns, mostly to Democrats.
The DOJ's inquires seem, so far, to be an evidence-gathering move in investigations on Bankman-Fried and other FTX executives, but that could change, with politicians and campaigns from both sides of the aisle facing questions about taking money from the cryptocurrency industry, which remains mostly unregulated.
Some politicians, such as Jeffries, have returned donations or given the money to charities, with some groups saying they will set the cash aside until it's determined where returned payments should be made or if victims of the alleged scheme will get their money back.
Bankman-Fried and other executives are accused of diverting customers' money to buy expensive real estate, invest in rival cyber currency firms, and donate to political campaigns. FTX is now bankrupt.
Bankman-Fried's arrest in the Bahamas on Dec. 12 followed investigations by the DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission that focused on another company, Alameda Research, which he had helped to start. He is also facing civil fraud charges from the SEC.
Among his fraud charges, Bankman-Fried is facing charges that he conspired to violate campaign finance laws prohibiting corporate donations to campaigns or that are made in the names of other people.
According to Federal Election Commission regulations, political campaigns must return donations later determined to be illegal.
Cryptocurrency skeptics are saying the donations and scandal show the hazards of allowing loopholes that allow such money to be spent.
"It shows a fundamental weakness in our campaign finance laws," Craig Holman, an official at the watchdog group Public Citizen commented. "On the receiving end, you’ve got candidates and officeholders who should have been suspicious of the sudden influx of funds from the crypto industry.”
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