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Billion dollar slip-up: Why a crypto magnate is rethinking election spending


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Billionaire crypto executive and political mega-donor Sam Bankman-Fried has turned off the spigot of campaign contributions with less than a month to go before the 2022 midterms. In an interview with MM, he insisted that was always part of the plan — even if everyone else thought he’d go bigger.

Bankman-Fried has dumped almost $40 million into super PACs and campaigns during the 2022 cycle. And while that’s enough to make him one the biggest donors in politics — with the bulk going to Democrats — it’s only a fraction of the $1 billion he previously said he’d be willing to spend on races between now and 2024.

“That was a dumb quote on my part,” the 30 year-old founder of the global crypto exchange FTX and trading firm Alameda Research said in an interview on Wednesday. “I think my messaging was sort of sloppy and inconsistent in some cases.”

That’s bad news for Democratic leaders who’ve been sounding the alarm over dwindling warchests to fend off the GOP in November.

Bankman-Fried said that unleashing his fortune in the waning days of the race wouldn’t do much to elevate his policy priorities. In addition to new rules for crypto exchanges, the billionaire has also been a vocal advocate for pandemic preparedness.

“I think primaries are more important,” said Bankman-Fried, who was in Washington for conference appearances this week. “Frankly, I could try and talk about pandemic preparedness in a general election. But most voters are gonna say, ‘That’s cool, but like, I’m a Democrat’ or ‘I’m a Republican.’ That’s not going to move the needle enough for me to go over all of the other issues.”

What’s more, while the super PACs funded by Bankman-Fried and other FTX executives have generally backed winning candidates in the primaries, they’ve also endured high-profile losses in some of the races where they were most active.

“At some point, when you’ve given your message to voters, there’s just not a whole lot more you can do,” Bankman-Fried said. “You can spend more time on it, and more messaging, more money, more anything else, [but] you’re not accomplishing anything more.”

Read more of the Bankman-Fried conversation on POLITICO Pro.

IT’S FRIDAY — And playoff baseball is on. Send us your tips, story ideas or feedback to get us over the Friday finish line: [email protected] and [email protected].

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo convenes members of the global sanctions coalition against Russia’s invasion at Treasury at 8 a.m. … Retail sales and import price data released at 8:30 a.m. … University of Michigan consumer sentiment data released at 10 a.m. … Federal Reserve Governor Lisa Cook speaks at a National Bankers Association conference at 10:30 a.m. … Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen holds a press conference at the IMF at 1:30 p.m.

ELON INVESTIGATED — Bloomberg’s Tom Giles: “Billionaire Elon Musk is being investigated by federal authorities related to his attempted acquisition of Twitter Inc., lawyers on behalf of the social media company wrote in a court filing in Delaware.”

RAIMONDO ON RECESSION FEARS: ALL IS WELL — Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Thursday said that she doesn’t consider an economic recession to be certain. “As I see it, a recession is not inevitable,” she said in an appearance on Bloomberg TV. ”Certainly any kind of a significant recession, I think, is absolutely not inevitable.”

PAYPAL’S WOES — Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) set to be the top Republican on the Banking Committee next year waded into the fintech culture wars this week in a letter to PayPal that warned the company to disavow a scuttled policy update that would have fined users $2,500 for spreading misinformation. The company walked back the update not long after it went out, saying it was “never intended to be inserted in our policy.”

In another potential cultural flash point for banks, JPMorgan Chase and Ye — a.k.a. Kanye West — severed ties following a string of social media attacks the rapper and designer lobbed at the bank, its CEO Jamie Dimon and other top executives.

While some have tried to link Wednesday night’s revelation to the string of racist and anti-semitic comments Ye has posted to social media over the last week, a source with knowledge of the letter said it was sent on Sept. 20 — a few days after the rapper told CNBC that he was pulling his money from JPMorgan because “Jamie Dimon never calls me.”

FED WHISPERER — Here’s a fun one: NY Magazine profiles WSJ Fed reporter Nick Timiraos. “On Wall Street and in Washington, Nick Timiraos, chief economics correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, is playfully referred to as the ‘Fed whisperer’ or even ‘Chairman Timiraos’ for his recent prescience about the central bank’s next move,” writes Jen Wieczner.

Pretty accurate: “John Krasinski would be a lock to play Timiraos in a movie.”

BRACING FOR THE WORST — Bloomberg’s Lu Wang and Peyton Forte: “Wall Street hopes that the Federal Reserve might be able to ease up on its battle against inflation later this year were decisively dashed Thursday when consumer price index data for September came in unexpectedly hot.”

DIMON DOWNER Bloomberg’s Hannah Levitt: “Jamie Dimon said the Federal Reserve probably can’t cool the red-hot economy without bringing on a recession.”

BUT, BUT, BUT WSJ’s Karen Langley and Caitlin Ossoff: “U.S. stocks closed sharply higher Thursday in a head-spinning reversal, after investors decided that fresh evidence of high inflation wasn’t as bad as it initially appeared.”

BENEFITS JUMP — WSJ’s Anne Tergesen: “Social Security checks will be 8.7% bigger in 2023, the largest cost-of-living adjustment to benefits in four decades, the Social Security Administration said Thursday. The extra funds will provide relief for many of the roughly 70 million Social Security recipients whose budgets have been stretched thin by high inflation and whose nest eggs were walloped by plunging stock and bond markets.”

Dollars and cents: The average monthly benefit check for retirees will jump to $1,814 starting in January, up from $1,669 this year, per WSJ.

BLACKROCK STUMBLES — WSJ’s Angel Au-Yeung: “A souring market weighed on investing giant BlackRock Inc. in the third quarter, pushing profit down 16%.”

KASTLE’S BACK-TO-OFFICE GAUGE — Bloomberg’s Sarah Holder: “The 50-year old company has become, if not exactly a household name, at least the most well-known player in a not-so-sexy industry—and a key participant in the ongoing conversation about when, and whether, remote workers will get back to their desks. If the office as we once knew it is dying, Kastle is determined to track its final days.”

OCC CHIEF PRODS STARTUPS TO ‘GROW UP’ — Coindesk’s Fran Velasquez: “Acting Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Michael Hsu says the lack of focus at some crypto companies with plans to expand is hindering agencies like his from establishing regulatory standards. ‘Part of this confusion is because there are parts of the crypto industry that don’t know what they want to be when they grow up,’ Hsu said.”

DEFI STILL DEALING — Bloomberg’s David Pan: “Uniswap Labs has secured more funding even as the crypto market struggles and investors start to lose confidence in decentralized finance. The exchange … said Thursday it has secured $165 million through a Series B funding round, valuing the company at $1.66 billion.”

A LESS THAN FANTASTIC VOYAGER — Bloomberg’s Jeremy Hill: “Voyager Digital Ltd. creditors are taking issue with plans to provide the crypto lender’s directors and officers with immunity from lawsuits tied to its descent into bankruptcy.”

Jamie Wall is now VP and head of the Washington office of ExxonMobil. She most recently was EVP of advocacy at SIFMA and is an alum of Honeywell, Subject Matter and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). – Daniel Lippmann

The global life and health insurance company Reinsurance Group of America appointed Steve Simchak and Christopher Winship to serve as vice president and head of the company’s Washington office and vice president of legislative and regulatory relations for Asia, respectively.

The Federal Trade Commission, the top watchdog of American business, is also home to Washington’s most active Wall Street investors. — WSJ’s Brody Mullins, Rebecca Ballhaus, Chad Day, John West and Coulter Jones

Leaders from U.S. banking giants on Thursday said strict capital requirements, which were bolstered after the 2008 financial crisis, could restrain economic activity. — Reuters’ Saeed Azhar and Lananh Nguyen

The managers of Harvard University’s $51bn endowment have warned of substantial markdowns to come in its private equity and venture capital portfolio, predicting heavy losses for institutional investors. — FT’s Antoine Gara





Read More: Billion dollar slip-up: Why a crypto magnate is rethinking election spending

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