Earlier this week, former FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas after being charged by a Manhattan federal grand jury with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, commodities fraud, securities fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission and commit campaign finance violations.
Many Democrats (and a few Republicans) have received donations from Bankman-Fried and/or his top lieutenant, Ryan Salame.
“In the 2022 election cycle alone, Bankman-Fried personally gave more than $13 million to dozens of candidates and campaign organizations of both parties,” explains The Daily Beast. “While the vast majority of the CEO’s donations were to Democrats, Salame gave nearly $24 million to Republicans. Outside PACs associated with the two also spent heavily: Bankman-Fried’s PAC spent over $23 million supporting Democrats, while Salame’s PAC spent over $12 million for Republicans.”
Like clockwork, the calls for Democrats to return donations from Bankman-Fried have come rolling in. While some Democrats have done so, one potential presidential candidate has so far been mum on donations his campaign received from the disgraced Democrat megadonor: Joe Biden.
During a press conference earlier this week, the White House declined to say whether or not Joe Biden will repay campaign donations from Bankman-Fried, who donated $50,000 to the Biden Victory Fund and $2,800 directly to Biden.
“The President received campaign donations — campaign donations from him — and many prominent Democrats did. Will the President return that donation? Does he call on all politicians who got campaign donations that may have come from customer money to return those funds?” a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Jean-Pierre refused to answer.
“So, look, I am covered here by the Hatch Act,” she said. “I’m limited on what I can say. And anything that’s connected to political contributions from here, I would have to refer you to the DNC.”
Jean-Pierre repeatedly refused to answer any follow-ups on this question.
Asked if Biden intends to return Sam Bankman-Fried’s donations, Karine Jean-Pierre says she’s covered under the Hatch Act. pic.twitter.com/AnvVowDIoX
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) December 13, 2022
Democrats as well as Republicans rarely miss an opportunity to use campaign donations as a political cudgel, so the calls for Biden to return the funds were certainly fair. In fact, Democrats have called for donations to be returned over far less controversy.
Last year, Democrats wanted Republicans to return donations from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) simply because she wanted to start an “America First Caucus,” which Democrats absurdly claimed would promote white nationalist views.
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Other times, there have been legitimate scandals causing both parties to return tainted donations.
In 2017, Republicans called on Democrats to return campaign donations from disgraced Harvey Weinstein. Not all did, of course. A year later, Democrats called on Republicans to return donations from casino mogul Steve Wynn following allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Again, not all did. But in that case, Democrats as well as Republicans were less interested in returning donations Wynn made to their own campaigns.
Joe Biden’s apparent refusal to return Bankman-Fried donations is particularly troubling. In situations like this, there are always candidates and groups that won’t return “tainted” donations, but one would expect the President of the United States to set an example. In the days since the White House was questioned on the donations, however, it has made no announcement either way on what Biden plans to do — which tells me he has every intention of keeping them. Even if he eventually caves to pressure, it’s clear that he’s hoping not to have to return the money.
So much for leading by example.