Beto O’Rourke returned a $1 million donation from political megadonor and former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried four days before the November election, according to the Texas Tribune.
The former Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate reportedly decided to reimburse the donation, which he received on Oct. 11, because he was uncomfortable receiving such a large, unsolicited donation. His campaign staff told the Tribune that O’Rourke and Bankman-Fried had not spoken prior to the donation, and it came as a “surprise.”
Bankman-Fried personally donated $40 million to largely Democratic candidates, while other FTX executives, including co-CEO Ryan Salame, donated to Republicans. Some, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who received at least $16,600 from Bankman-Fried, are rushing to wash their hands of the association with the suspect donations, promising to give the money to charity.
While O’Rourke returned Bankman-Fried’s October donation, the now-disgraced crypto mogul was the Texas Democrat’s biggest campaign donor during the previous fundraising cycle, from July 1 to Sept. 29, during which Bankman-Fried gave O'Rourke a total of $1 million.
O’Rourke’s reluctance to accept the more recent large donation could also have been influenced by the political divisiveness over cryptocurrency in Texas. O’Rourke’s opponent, Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (who won the election), is a vocal supporter of the crypto industry – particularly crypto mining – in the state.
Texas’ unique and fragile power grid has struggled to support the state’s growing energy requirements in recent years, leading to an increase in blackouts.
Abbott’s open invitation to bitcoin miners to set up shop in Texas has been criticized, particularly by Democrats, who are concerned the growing presence of crypto miners could further strain the state’s grid.
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