An S.B.F. Campaign Finance Whodunnit

Sam Bankman-Fried was indicted yesterday on more than a half-dozen criminal and civil charges, including violating campaign finance law. Photo: Tom Williams/Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
December 14, 2022

Since the beginning of Sam Bankman-Fried’s implosion, the feeble hope among his inner circle of political and philanthropic fixers has been that the widening scandal would be ring-fenced to whatever happened between the sheets at FTX, Alameda Research, and his business empire. In short, whatever the charges against S.B.F.—wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud investors, etcetera—that at least there was no funny business in the corner of his operation that dealt with giving the money away. In fact, just last week Sam addressed this categorically. “Can you confidently say, for the record, that there was no financial impropriety on the political and philanthropic side of your work?” I asked him. “Obviously I’m not omniscient,” he replied, “but I don’t think there was any.”

That too appears to have been a deception, at least if you believe the prosecutors at the alphabet soup of federal agencies—the S.D.N.Y. at D.O.J., the S.E.C. and the C.F.T.C.—that indicted Bankman-Fried yesterday on more than a half-dozen criminal and civil charges, including violating campaign finance law. Yes, that’s the dreaded “giving the money away” part. But it remains unclear how S.B.F. violated these laws, or in support of which campaigns. Among the five paragraphs in the criminal indictment that constitute Count Eight (“Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Violate the Campaign Finance Laws”), there are close to zero concrete details regarding the alleged conspiracy, by “the defendant, and others known and unknown,” to deceive the Federal Elections Commission.

Over the last 24 hours, there has been ample speculation across the Democratic consultant-verse and among S.B.F. insiders and friends about this particular charge—and who those “known and unknown” associates might be. After all, several Democrats noted to me, “don’t lie on F.E.C. forms” is sort of Campaign Finance 101. But S.B.F. has always had a knack for pushing the envelope in political donations. Sometimes too far.