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FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried backs down from ‘dumb quote’ about giving $1 billion to political races

Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and chief executive officer of FTX Cryptocurrency Derivatives Exchange, speaks during the Institute of International Finance (IIF) annual membership meeting in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.
Ting Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried is backing down from a previous comment suggesting he could spend $1 billion or more in races from now through the 2024 election.

In May, the 30-year-old said on the Pushkin Industries podcast, “What’s Your Problem,” that he expected to give “north of $100 million” in the next presidential election and had a “soft ceiling” of $1 billion. In an interview with Politico’s Morning Money this week, however, the founder of the global cryptocurrency exchange FTX called it a “dumb quote.”

“I think my messaging was sort of sloppy and inconsistent in some cases,” said Bankman-Fried, who also founded trading firm Alameda Research.

Instead, Bankman-Fried has reportedly invested around $40 million in political action committees and campaigns this year in the runup to midterm elections, with most of that money going to Democratic candidates. The FTX CEO has been the driving force behind the Protect Our Future PAC, which has raised more than $28 million thus far — and could move the needle in upcoming House races.

But for now, Bankman-Fried is hitting pause on his political campaign spending, telling Politico, “At some point, when you’ve given your message to voters, there’s just not a whole lot more you can do.”

“You can spend more time on it, and more messaging, more money, more anything else, [but] you’re not accomplishing anything more,” the FTX CEO told Politico.

The crypto market has tanked since Bankman-Fried first pledged to spend hundreds of millions of dollars earlier this year.

Bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, is down more than 50% in the last six months and more than 70% since hitting its all-time high in November 2021. Meanwhile, the crypto market as a whole, which less than a year ago had a market cap of around $3 trillion, is less than $1 trillion today.

For his part, Bankman-Fried has been spending a lot of money the last few months to prop up the digital asset industry during the 2022 crypto winter. The quant trader-turned-CEO has bailed out multiple crypto firms to protect against a wider contagion effect across the sector, and Bankman-Fried told CNBC in September that FTX still has another $1 billion to deploy.

Bankman-Fried was also interested in helping to fund Elon Musk’s proposed takeover of Twitter, according to personal text messages that were released recently as part of Twitter’s lawsuit to force Musk to complete the deal. At one point, the billionaire was ready to commit up to $8 billion, according to a message to Musk from Bankman-Fried’s “collaborator,” professor Will MacAskill.However, he never made a formal offer, according to reports.

Meanwhile, U.S. regulators and politicians have been increasingly turning their attention to crypto policy in recent months, as a spate of bankruptcies and crypto bank runs have eroded confidence in the emerging asset class.

In September, for example, the Biden White House released its first-ever framework on what crypto regulation in the U.S. should look like — including ways to crack down on fraud in the digital asset space.

CNBC’s Brian Schwartz contributed to this report.

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