Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) heaped praise on Democratic megadonor Sam Bankman-Fried ahead of her committee’s hearing about the collapse of the crypto mogul’s firm.
Waters asserted Friday that Bankman-Fried has been "candid" about the demise of his company, FTX. Bankman-Fried has given a series of interviews this week as part of an apparent image rehabilitation tour after FTX declared bankruptcy, wiping out billions of dollars from customers’ portfolios. Bankman-Fried has said he mismanaged the company but has denied committing fraud. Waters invited the former billionaire to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Dec. 13.
Waters’s remarks could raise concerns that lawmakers will give Bankman-Fried the kid-glove treatment as they investigate what went wrong at FTX. Bankman-Fried donated more than $40 million to Democratic groups and lawmakers during the 2022 election cycle, including $300,000 to nine members of the House Financial Services Committee, the Washington Free Beacon reported. He has also rubbed shoulders with Waters, appearing with her on a panel discussion on cryptocurrency at the Democratic Party’s retreat in Philadelphia earlier this year.
Bankman-Fried met privately with Waters prior to his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee last December. The disgraced entrepreneur praised Waters at the time, saying that her "open mind" on the issue of cryptocurrency was "heartening."
Waters has dismissed concerns about Bankman-Fried’s extensive political donations and dodged questions last month about whether lawmakers should return his money.
Bankman-Fried’s massive political giving opened doors for him in Washington. Bankman-Fried, who contributed $5 million to a group supporting President Joe Biden in 2020, met three times with Biden advisers at the White House earlier this year. Bankman-Fried was accompanied in two of those meetings by lobbyists for FTX.
Bankman-Fried has ties to two other Democrats on the Financial Services panel. His brother, Gabriel, worked until last year as an aide to Rep. Sean Casten (D., Ill.), who serves on the committee’s Digital Assets Working Group. Bankman-Fried cohosted a fundraiser in June for Rep. Ritchie Torres (D., N.Y.), another committee member who is on the Digital Assets Working Group.
Waters’s office did not respond to a request for comment.