Paul L. Caron

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Stanford Law Profs' Son — A 'Vegan Crypto Billionaire' Megadonor — Seeks To Change Washington, D.C.

Following up on my previous post, Stanford Law Profs' Son Is A 'Vegan Crypto Billionaire':  Los Angeles Times, A Young Crypto Billionaire’s Political Agenda Goes Well Beyond Pandemic Preparedness:

Joe Barbara SamIn May, an eccentric 30-year-old cryptocurrency billionaire named Sam Bankman-Fried made a startling proclamation. In a podcast interview, Bankman-Fried said he would spend as much as $1 billion of his estimated $12.8-billion fortune on American politics by the 2024 election, joining the ranks of megadonors such as George Soros and the Koch brothers.

At the time, Bankman-Fried, raised in the Bay Area by two Stanford law professors, was far from a household name. FTX, the crypto exchange he founded and runs, makes most of its money overseas, and was perhaps best known in America for buying the naming rights for the Miami Heat’s arena.

In Washington, though, Bankman-Fried — known as SBF online — has become a familiar sight on Capitol Hill, meeting with lawmakers, chatting with aides and testifying before congressional committees.

This week, an FTX ad featuring a giant image of the mop-topped billionaire graced a billboard in D.C.'s Union Station, towering over Hill staffers on their way to work. (Bankman-Fried’s famous hair, which makes him look even younger than his years, is available for purchase as an NFT.) And he has opened his pockets as promised, giving at least $34 million to political candidates and causes since January. ...

Bankman-Fried is the largest donor to Protect Our Future, a super PAC focused on advancing Democrats who “will be champions for pandemic prevention — candidates who, when elected, will have their eyes on the future,” according to its website. He has donated $27 million of POF’s $28 million total raised. His younger brother, Gabe, is the founder and director of the Guarding Against Pandemics, a super PAC which has raised $362,000. Bankman-Fried donated just $5,000, according to FEC records. ...

Bankman-Fried can afford to spend a lot more: The $34 million he’s handed out so far this year amounts to only 0.26% of his reported $12.8-billion net worth. “I think that there are, in some ways, surprisingly little money in politics,” he said in the podcast back in May.

Politico, How the Newest Megadonor Wants to Change Washington:

Sam Bankman-Fried has a big fortune and big plans for how to spend it — including an unusual political power-building strategy.

One of the biggest donors in Democratic politics this year isn’t sure if he really wants to be a Democratic megadonor — at least not on the party’s terms.

But then, part of life as Sam Bankman-Fried is about embracing paradoxes. The 30-year-old, who has amassed an estimated $20 billion fortune over the last four years through cryptocurrency, drives a hybrid Toyota Corolla. A monk-like aesthetic extends from his clothes — he showed up to chat in a wrinkled T-shirt and beat-up New Balance sneakers — to his personal life. He shares a penthouse with about 10 roommates and cooks for himself. He still uses his parents’ Netflix account. When he lobbies in Washington, D.C., he’ll often crash on his brother’s couch. ...

He was also one of just a handful of donors who spent $10 million-plus backing President Joe Biden in 2020, and in the last year, he’s hired a network of political operatives and spent tens of millions more shaping Democratic House primaries. It was a shocking wave of spending that looked like it could remake the Democratic Party bench in Washington, candidate by candidate. Looking ahead to the 2024 election, he has said he could spend anywhere from $100 million to $1 billion.

The head-spinning speed of Bankman-Fried’s entrance onto the national political scene kicked off a race in Washington to understand him and define him — as a potential Democratic savior, a head-scratching mystery or, occasionally, a corrupt crypto bogeyman. Candidates, consultants and members of Congress are all eager to direct the millions he’s spending. And Bankman-Fried seemingly wandered into the middle of the Democratic Party and pulled out his wallet at the exact moment when many Democratic megadonors are pulling back, all ahead of a blistering midterm environment. ...

Gabe, 27, and Sam, 30, are deeply influenced by “effective altruism,” a philosophical and social movement that’s defined by maximizing good through a data-driven framework — an unusual lens for engaging with politics. Philanthropically, it means testing and measuring efforts through a cost-per-life-saved formula. For example, an experiment showed investing in treating children for intestinal worms did more to improve their educational outcomes than providing schools with extra resources for textbooks.

In politics, that’s led Sam Bankman-Fried to dual objectives. There’s the one he has talked about most: preventing the next pandemic, which he fears could be more lethal than Covid-19 and would pose a huge threat to humanity, an obsession for effective altruists. His other goal is solving the gridlock in Washington by turning down the partisan temperature and supporting candidates who “are just going to take a constructive approach in D.C.,” he said.

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