Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee have returned thousands of dollars in donations from Samuel Bankman-Fried and Ryan Salame, two of the top executives of failed crypto firm FTX.
Bankman-Fried was arrested on Dec. 12 in the Bahamas and later extradited to the United States after federal prosecutors charged him on several counts, including wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. He has contributed nearly $47 million to candidates and political groups since 2020, with most of the money going to liberals, according to a database by OpenSecrets.
In a November interview with cryptocurrency blogger Tiffany Fong, Bankman-Fried said he used untraceable “dark money” donations to support Republicans and conservative groups.
Salame, the co-CEO of FTX, tipped off regulators about possible misuse of funds several days before the firm collapsed into bankruptcy. Salame contributed more than $23 million to Republican candidates and conservative groups.
Year-end Federal Election Commission filings show Romney’s campaign returned $5,800 donated by Bankman-Fried and another $2,900 from Salame in December. Salame donated $5,000 to Romney’s Believe in America PAC, which also was returned. Those donations were first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune in December.
Romney’s campaign sent those donations to the U.S. Treasury on Dec. 16. Romney’s PAC transferred the donation from Salame the same day.
“Senator Romney’s campaign has transferred contributions from Sam Bankman-Fried and Ryan Salame to the U.S. Treasury, per FEC rules. The Senator condemns Sam Bankman-Fried’s reprehensible behavior and believes he must be held accountable for his actions — which have caused harm to many,” Romney spokesperson Arielle Mueller said in an email statement to The Tribune on Wednesday.
Lee’s campaign refunded the donation from Salame on Dec. 20. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Bankman-Fried donated more than $9,700 to the Utah Democratic Party in August. A party spokesperson said Wednesday that the donation came through a fund for state parties managed by the Democratic National Committee. They said the contribution was refunded to the DNC last week.
Salame donated $2,900 each to the campaigns of Reps. John Curtis and Chris Stewart. Instead of refunding the donation, a spokesperson for Stewart’s campaign said the money was transferred to Because He First Loved Us, a Utah-based charity that assists refugee families.
The most recent campaign disclosure for Curtis’ campaign does not indicate the contribution from Salame has been refunded or redirected.
After this story was published, a spokesperson for Curtis said they had been informed a fund was being set up where campaigns that received donations from FTX could return the money to those impacted by the collapse of the firm. If that does not materialize by the end of February, the spokesperson said Curtis/ campaign will donate those funds to charity.
Salame also contributed $50,000 to Club for Growth Action, the political arm of the conservative group Club for Growth. That group spent more than $5.4 million in Utah to support Sen. Mike Lee’s re-election campaign in 2022.
Update, Feb. 6, 1:40 p.m. ⋅ This story has been updated to include a statement from Rep. John Curtis’ office.