Inside the S.B.F. Blast Radius

Sam Bankman-Fried
Nearly all of Sam Bankman-Fried’s projects went from having seemingly infinite money to effectively zero, overnight. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
November 15, 2022

The Thursday before Sam Bankman-Fried’s company imploded, at a Capitol Hill townhouse just purchased by one of his main political outfits, about 60 Democratic operatives and lobbyists turned up for a cocktail party with a full bar and catering—“Democratic Night,” in the unofficial words of people invited—to celebrate S.B.F.’s ascendant lobbying organization. The previous evening, the townhouse had hosted a similar soirée for G.O.P. power brokers on “Republican Night.” 

The subtext was as clear as when Jeff Bezos marked his territory by purchasing a mansion in Kalorama: S.B.F. and his network were in D.C. to stay. Some in his network—a sprawling coterie of family, political sherpas, data consultants and effective-altruist consiglieres—spoke openly about a 50-year mission for influence, and they were just getting started.

Several people who attended these functions called me, aghast, after it all came crashing down last week. S.B.F., after all, was briefly one of the biggest, and certainly among the most ambitious, donors in Democratic politics. In the three years between when he founded FTX, his crypto exchange platform, and its spectacular demise, I wouldn’t be surprised if his total political giving exceeded $100 million. Now, in the wake of FTX filing for bankruptcy and the possibility that S.B.F. could face civil or criminal charges, everyone who rode the gravy train is squinting to assess the blast radius: Just how much money was vaporized? What will be the long-term damage to those who tied themselves to his brand? Whose heads will roll?