Wyden Aides Facilitated Shady $500k Donation from Sam Bankman-Fried Crony

Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) / Getty
May 31, 2023

Aides for the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee facilitated a $500,000 campaign contribution from an executive at the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange run by alleged fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried, according to newly disclosed emails.

Three members of Senator Ron Wyden’s (D., Ore.) team—his campaign manager, compliance director, and a fundraising consultant— arranged the massive donation from FTX executive Nishad Singh to the Democratic Party of Oregon in October, according to a report from Oregon Roundup. The donation came just weeks before FTX went bankrupt amid allegations executives stole billions of dollars from customers. Singh pleaded guilty to making illegal campaign contributions on behalf of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

The Wyden aides’ involvement in the donation is certain to raise questions about the Democrats' relationship with the company behind one of the biggest financial frauds in American history. Prosecutors allege that Bankman-Fried donated tens of millions of dollars in his own name and through other FTX employees to "improve his personal standing" in Washington, D.C., and "curry favor" with candidates who could pass legislation favorable to FTX, which was the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading platform.

According to emails, a consultant for FTX put company lawyer Mark Wetjen in contact with political consultant Diana Rogalle on Sept. 29, 2022, regarding the $500,000 contribution to the Democratic Party of Oregon. The consultant referred to Rogalle as being involved in "all things Ron Wyden." Wyden’s Senate campaign and his political action committee have paid Rogalle’s firm more than $1.5 million since 2009 for "fundraising consulting," according to campaign finance records.

The email suggests Wyden was told of the donation. The FTX consultant wrote that Rogalle would be "following up directly [with] principals" regarding the Singh donation.

On Oct. 3, 2022, Wetjen asked Rogalle, Wyden campaign manager Tim Leahy, Wyden campaign compliance director Jocelyn Tyree, and Democratic Party of Oregon compliance director Amelia Manlove for wiring instructions for Singh to send the $500,000. Singh made the donation the following day through the Democratic Party of Oregon and erroneously listed a Nevada firm called Prime Trust as the donor. The Oregon attorney general fined the party $15,000 for the inaccurate disclosure.

It is unclear why Wyden served as middleman for the contribution from FTX to the Democratic Party of Oregon. A sizable portion of the money likely went to help the campaign of Gov. Tina Kotek, who narrowly trailed Republican candidate Christine Drazan at the time of the campaign donation. Wyden attended several campaign events for Kotek in the weeks before the election.

Singh pleaded guilty on Feb. 28 to wire fraud, securities fraud, and campaign finance violations. He is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors in their case against Bankman-Fried, who faces dozens of fraud and campaign finance charges.

Bankman-Fried, who gave $5 million in 2020 to a pro-Biden super PAC, visited the White House repeatedly last year, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Bankman-Fried attended a House Democratic retreat last year, where he spoke on a panel with Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. Bankman-Fried contributed roughly $300,000 to Democrats on the committee, which oversees the crypto industry.

Wyden would have been a prime target for an FTX influence operation, given his role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the cryptocurrency industry. Wyden has defended cryptocurrency amid scrutiny from fellow progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

Wyden’s Senate office and his campaign aides did not respond to requests for comment. Rogalle, the Wyden consultant, also did not respond to emails.