At least one member of Congress has returned thousands of dollars in donations from figures tied to controversial cryptocurrency broker FTX amid continuing fallout from allegations that the company allegedly misled regulators about its holdings prior to going bankrupt, taking millions of dollars in investors’ funds with it.
During the height of its existence, FTX and its leader, Sam Bankman-Fried, were integral players in Washington, D.C., donating about $45.6 million to causes across the political spectrum, including nearly $150,000 to individual candidates.
But after the scandal broke, Bankman-Fried, also known as “SBF,” and his allies became unwelcome in D.C., with many members of Congress quickly disavowing the funds they received and, in some cases, donating them to charity.
While most of the more than 150 members of Congress who received funds from SBF and other FTX associates returned them, some in recent days have faced questions about whether they’ve willingly let go of all of the money connected to FTX that—in theory—could have been made by swindling investors.
Some, like, North Carolina Republican Senator Ted Budd, are beginning to. Budd fielded donations from Ryan Salame, a top official in the company who has not been implicated in any crimes connected to FTX.
Records show Salame donated to numerous Republican senators, including Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Tim Scott of South Carolina and John Thune of South Dakota.
While records did not yet show a refund, Budd’s campaign indicated he returned Salame’s money in a Tuesday statement to Newsweek, that it just wasn’t public yet.
“I can confirm Ted Budd for Senate donated $2900 to the FTX Debtors fund earlier this month, and it will appear on the next FEC report,” a Budd spokesman told Newsweek.
As of early this week, records showed few of the bipartisan group of House lawmakers had not refunded donations from top figures connected to the FTX scandal, while nearly two dozen members of the Senate might have held onto those funds as well.
However, the condition of those returned funds could potentially have had to do with pending instruction from the Department of Justice on what to do with the money.
This month, FTX confirmed in a statement that the company and its affiliated debtors sent confidential letters this winter asking politicians, PACs and other recipients of funds to return donations to a fund maintained by the company by February 28 or potentially face legal repercussions.
Members of Congress from both parties had ties to figures other than SBF in the company. Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto’s political action committee received a $5,000 contribution from FTX executive Nishad Singh—one of several large contributions he made to a handful of battleground state Democrats in the House and Senate like Arizona’s Mark Kelly, Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman, Washington’s Patty Murray, and New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan.
Other recipients included Montana’s Jon Tester, California’s Alex Padilla, Vermont’s Peter Welch and Hawaii’s Brian Schatz. At this point, it is unclear whether those funds have been returned, even as Singh pleaded guilty to federal charges on Tuesday.
That doesn’t mean they haven’t. All who have commented publicly have largely announced their intention to return the funds, with Nevada Representative Susie Lee’s campaign communications director Henry Novak telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal this winter that the campaign was “awaiting guidance from the proper authorities on an appropriate system to return the funds or donate to a charity.”
Not all money tied to FTX officials has been returned, however.
After the scandal broke, figures like Arkansas Senator John Boozman publicly disavowed the donations he’d received from SBF as well as FTX’s Zach Dexter and the company’s general counsel, Ryne Miller, neither of whom has been implicated in any crimes.
FEC records show Boozman’s campaign issued refunds to Dexter as well as Miller, while SBF’s $5,800 donation was donated to the University of Arkansas Foundation’s Jon Richardson Scholarship Fund.
However, the FEC shows no record of Boozman refunding donations from another FTX figure—Mark Wetjen—a commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission under former President Barack Obama and SBF’s top adviser in Washington, D.C.
Wetjen also gave money to Minnesota Democratic Senator Tina Smith, and records show it has not been returned.