Failed Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke reportedly returned a $1 million check from FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried.
O’Rourke’s campaign told The Texas Tribune it handed back the donation from the embattled cryptocurrency exchange platform founder four days before Election Day. The donation was returned a week before FTX filed for bankruptcy and Bankman-Fried stepped down as its chief executive.
According to the campaign, the move was decided prior to Nov. 4 but took time to execute.
“This contribution was unsolicited and the campaign’s upcoming [Texas Ethics Commission] report will show that it was returned back on November 4, prior to the news stories that would later come out about the donor,” Chris Evans, a spokesperson for O’Rourke’s campaign, told the Tribune.
Evans said returning the donation had nothing to do with any of scandals emerging from the crypto exchange’s fallout, and the campaign decided to return the million-dollar donation because it was unexpected and O’Rourke had not met with Bankman-Fried, as he did with other large donors.
FTX, once valued at $32 billion, collapsed in a matter of days earlier this month when it experienced a crypto equivalent of a bank run. Bankman-Fried and his lieutenants reportedly used customer assets to make bets in FTX’s closely related trading firm, Alameda Research. Bankman-Fried was reportedly looking for upwards of $8 billion from new investors to repair the company’s balance sheet.
Once considered the Democrats’ “newest megadonor” ahead of the 2022 midterms, Bankman-Fried reportedly saw around $6 billion of withdrawals within 72 hours, forcing him to sell the company to its biggest rival on Election Day.
The Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department are now investigating FTX to determine whether customer funds were used to prop up Alameda Research, a trading firm Bankman-Fried also founded.
O’Rourke’s campaign raised a total of $77 million. Though Bankman-Fried was his top donor in the July 1 to Sept. 29 fundraising cycle, O’Rourke had at least three other seven-figure donors, including George Soros, The Tribune reported. He still failed to oust incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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