Sam Bankman-Fried’s Brother Gabe Helped Send Misappropriated Funds to Dems, and Then Got “The Rock Star Treatment” From Biden White House

(p. B1) The group, Guarding Against Pandemics, raised more than $22 million in its first full year in 2021, turning it into an overnight lobbying force in Washington. The group’s founder, Gabe Bankman-Fried, a former legislative assistant, started getting the rock star treatment: two White House meetings with senior staff and invitations to speak on panels with government officials.

But almost all the money raised by Guarding Against Pandemics appears to have come from Gabe Bankman-Fried’s brother, whom federal prosecutors have accused of misappropriating billions of dollars from customers of his crypto exchange, FTX. The collapse of FTX prompted federal authorities to investigate allegations (p. B6) that sweeping fraud drove the exchange into bankruptcy in November [2023], as well as potential campaign finance law violations by both brothers.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged Sam Bankman-Fried, 31, with orchestrating a scheme to evade limits on corporate political donations. Prosecutors have said he recruited FTX executives and others to serve as proxies for the crypto exchange and make tens of millions of dollars in illegal political donations using customer money.

The authorities are investigating whether Gabe Bankman-Fried, 28, and some of his colleagues were part of the same so-called straw donor scheme, five people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. And they are trying to determine whether he knew some of the funds that his organization received had been misappropriated from customers.

Last month, a top FTX executive, Nishad Singh, pleaded guilty to using company money to make millions of dollars in straw donations to Democratic campaigns and committees.

. . .

The Bankman-Fried brothers relied on a small set of political consultants to guide their spending, applying the principles of effective altruism, the philanthropic movement that has a large following in the tech industry. A top adviser to both brothers was Michael Sadowsky, a committed effective altruist who had worked with the younger Mr. Bankman-Fried at the data firm Civis Analytics.

. . .

With a $25 million cash infusion from Sam Bankman-Fried, Mr. Sadowsky’s PAC became an instant force in Democratic politics. His group supported dozens of progressive candidates and got widespread attention when it spent more than $11 million on an unsuccessful House primary candidate in Oregon, an astonishing sum for such a race.

. . .

Two other key figures in the Bankman-Frieds’ political network had ties to prominent Democrats: Jenna Narayanan, a former political adviser to the billionaire investor Tom Steyer, and Sean McElwee, the founder of Data for Progress, a progressive think tank.

For the full story, see:

Matthew Goldstein, David Yaffe-Bellany and Lora Kelley. “Fraternal Turn to FTX Inquiry.” The New York Times (Friday, March 24, 2023): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “The Younger Brother Caught in the Middle of the FTX Investigation.”)

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