A super PAC’s advertising blitz in support of U.S. Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) during last year’s congressional race was part of an illegal scheme by crypto mogul Sam Bankman-Fried to curry political favor, according to a newly unsealed indictment.
The indictment alleges that Bankman-Fried, founder of the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, used straw donors to funnel misappropriated customer funds to candidates of both parties in hopes of influencing crypto industry regulations in Congress. The indictment specifically describes a $1 million-plus donation made by an unnamed FTX executive to a pro-LGBTQ super PAC as an example of the broader scheme.
The description in the indictment mirrors a donation that the LGBTQ Victory Fund Federal PAC received from FTX head of engineering Nishad Singh. In July 2022, Singh donated $1.1 million to the fund, which then spent $991,911 on TV, digital and mailed ads in Vermont that lauded the skills and experience of Balint, who is gay, as Seven Days previously reported
The ad buy was by far the super PAC’s largest expenditure during the election cycle. The money, the federal government alleges, was stolen from FTX’s customers, who lost millions when the exchange collapsed late last year.
Bankman-Fried is now also charged with conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission by making political donations through his associates in violation of campaign finance law. He recruited two FTX executives — identified in court documents only as unnamed coconspirators — to make the donations.
A political consultant working for Bankman-Fried asked one of the FTX executives to send funds to the LGBTQ super PAC, explaining that his role would entail “giving to a lot of woke shit for transactional purposes,” the indictment states.
The unnamed executive, who appears to be Singh, “expressed discomfort” making the contribution but agreed there was no one “trusted at FTX [who was] bi/gay” to do so, the court documents say.
Singh never responded to Seven Days
’ requests for comment last summer. But in August, he told Forbes
that he had been "really excited about Balint because she’s a strong proponent of pandemic prevention.
“Victory PAC wanted to run an independent expenditure to support Balint, I wanted to empower them to do that,” he told the outlet in a statement. “My contribution here was personal and independent from my role at FTX.”
Singh has yet to be accused of wrongdoing, but Bloomberg News reported last week
that he is “hammering out” a plea deal with federal prosecutors that would have him plead guilty to fraud charges. Such an agreement would likely involve Singh’s cooperation in the broader investigation into Bankman-Fried.
A spokesperson for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Albert Fujii, wrote in an email that the super PAC has “set aside funds and will take appropriate action once we receive guidance from authorities." The fund reported having about $200,000 cash on hand at the end of January, campaign finance filings show.
The new allegations surrounding Bankman-Fried’s political contributions are contained in a revised, superseding indictment filed by federal prosecutors in a pending criminal case against him. Bankman-Fried now faces 12 counts related to wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering and more.
Bankman-Fried, 30, has denied wrongdoing and is currently released on home confinement in California after posting a $250 million bond.
By law, super PACs such as the LGBTQ Victory Fund must operate independently from the candidates they support, and it is illegal for a candidate or their campaign to coordinate with super PACs on their spending.
In a written statement on Thursday, Balint’s campaign manager, Natalie Silver, said the campaign was not in contact with any super PACS or Sam Bankman-Fried “and has never solicited donations from him or his FTX associates.”
Balint’s campaign has been in communication with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, where the case is pending, and is “fully supporting their investigation,” Silver wrote.
Balint did meet with Bankman-Fried’s brother, Gabe, in Washington, D.C., during last year’s campaign, Silver previously told Seven Days
. Gabe Bankman-Fried, along with Sam, spearheaded a pair of super PACs that purported to be focused on preventing future pandemics: Guarding Against Pandemics and Protect Our Future. Balint was seeking their endorsement, which she ultimately secured.
Silver previously said the meeting was focused solely on pandemic prevention. Balint "believed in the mission of their organization and felt like it was in line with her values. And so they thought she was the best candidate in the race for that," Silver told Seven Days
Following the meeting with Gabe Bankman-Fried, Balint’s campaign website was updated to include detailed language around pandemic preparedness that was nearly identical to language used by two Chicago-area candidates who were also endorsed by and received funds from the Protect Our Future PAC.
Sam Bankman-Fried was one of the largest publicly reported political donors during the 2022 midterm elections. He and his alleged coconspirators made more than 300 contributions totaling tens of millions of dollars that, according to the indictment, “were unlawful because they were made in the name of a straw donor or paid for with corporate funds.”
Employees and associates of Bankman-Fried, including Singh, gave Balint at least $26,100 in direct contributions, VTDigger.org reported.
Balint and U.S. Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who also received a contribution from Bankman-Fried, had pledged to donate the disgraced crypto exec’s direct $2,900 donations to charity.
The full indictment is here, with the apparent references to the Balint campaign starting on page 15: