Beto O'Rourke claims he returned a $1 million campaign contribution from Sam Bankman-Fried before the crypto kingpin's meteoric collapse in November. But campaign records show O'Rourke is holding on to $100,000 of that donation, raising questions about the failed Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate's claims.
A spokesman for O'Rourke said in November that the campaign returned an "unsolicited" $1 million donation that Bankman-Fried gave on Oct. 11. In a story that praised O'Rourke for avoiding the "ethical headache" related to Bankman-Fried's money, O'Rourke spokesman Chris Evans said the refund was issued on Nov. 4, before the election and "prior to the news stories that would later come out about the donor."
But O'Rourke's latest campaign filing contradicts those assurances. In a report last week, the campaign disclosed a $900,000 refund to Bankman-Fried on Nov. 4. The campaign said it is holding on to the other $100,000 pending the outcome of the investigation of Bankman-Fried, who has been charged with campaign finance violations and fraud related to his cryptocurrency firm, FTX.
The O'Rourke campaign said it will place the money in a fund for "victims of FTX's collapse." It is not clear why the campaign only reserved part of the donation for victims. And the pledge contradicts the campaign's initial claim that it received and returned Bankman-Fried's donation before news broke of his wrongdoing. FTX declared bankruptcy on Nov. 11.
But an extra $100,000 on the books would come in handy for O'Rourke, whose campaign has just $212,356 cash on hand. It is unclear whether O'Rourke plans to run for office in the future. He lost by 11 points this year to Texas governor Greg Abbott (R.). He lost a 2018 Senate race against Sen. Ted Cruz (R.) and dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential race two months before the first primary.
The O'Rourke campaign and Evans did not respond to requests for information about those inconsistencies.
Bankman-Fried gave $40 million in the 2022 cycle, largely to Democrats. The 30-year-old entrepreneur contributed more than $300,000 to Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee, which has oversight of the cryptocurrency industry. He contributed $5 million to a PAC supporting Joe Biden in 2020 and said last year that he might contribute up to $1 billion to support Democrats in the 2022 election cycle.
Bankman-Fried's generosity has earned him access in Washington. He visited the White House multiple times last year, alongside an FTX lobbyist, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Other lawmakers and political action committees have said they will return Bankman-Fried's donations.
O'Rourke's campaign has not committed to returning a $100,000 contribution from FTX executive Nishad Singh. Singh, who gave millions to dollars to other Democrats, is reportedly cooperating with federal prosecutors in their investigation of Bankman-Fried.