Two months before the collapse of FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried walked into a restaurant in Washington, D.C.’s Wharf neighborhood for a meeting with Mitch McConnell. They both wanted to be there, of course. McConnell was in the final sprint of fundraising for the 2022 midterms, in which Republicans had found themselves outgunned in the Senate. And S.B.F., seeking a more sympathetic ear for his financial and personal pet projects, was pivoting that autumn, hard, to the right.
Over the preceding year, he had very publicly poured tens of millions of dollars into Democratic causes, feeding the perception that he and FTX were a motley crew of liberal hacks. So at 6 p.m. on that Wednesday evening in September, S.B.F. walked into The Grill with an entourage including his brother Gabe and FTX executive Ryan Salame, for some private time with the Republican majority leader and Senator Susan Collins.
S.B.F. had been priming the pump for weeks. In August 2022, according to my reporting, he quietly made a $10 million donation to McConnell’s dark-money group, One Nation, in what appears to be the largest single financial donation to a Republican group from an FTX executive. That donation, which was never reported, helps to explain Bankman-Fried’s claim, shortly after FTX declared bankruptcy, that he was actually one of the biggest Republican donors in the country that year. (One Nation wouldn’t address the specifics of this reporting.)