White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has declined to answer questions from a reporter on whether United States President Joe Biden will return the $5.2 million in campaign donations previously given by FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
“Will the president return that donation?” Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller asked in a Dec. 13 press briefing. “Does he call on all politicians who got campaign donations that may have come from customer money to return those funds?”
“I'm covered here by the Hatch Act,” Jean-Pierre responded, adding she was “limited on what I can say.”
”Anything that's connected to political contributions, from here I would have to refer you to the DNC,” she said, referring to the Democratic National Committee, the governing body of the U.S. Democratic Party.
The Hatch Act is a federal law prohibiting those employed in the executive branch of government from being involved in political campaign activities.
“I’m asking the president’s opinion though,” Miller pressed. Jean-Pierre repeated that she was “covered by the Hatch Act,” adding:
“I just can't talk to political contributions or anything related to that I cannot speak about it from here.”
Miller again pushed for Jean-Pierre’s response on Biden’s opinion, but she said she couldn’t speak about “even his opinion, even his thoughts about the contributions, donations — I cannot speak [...] about that from here.”
Bankman-Fried was charged with violations of campaign finance laws on Dec. 13, including contribution violations and obstructing the Federal Election Commission’s functions, along with making contributions in the name of others.
He was the second-largest “CEO-contributor” to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, with his $5.2 million in donations behind only the $56 million of contributions from media mogul Michael Bloomberg.
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The FTX founder was also a top individual donor in the 2022 mid-term elections, again the second-largest Democratic Party contributor in the cycle,with $36.8 million funneled to its candidates.
Public records show Bankman-Fried sent just over $240,000 to Republicans during the mid-terms, but he admitted to so-called dark money donations in a Nov. 16 interview with cryptocurrency vlogger Tiffany Fong, saying he “donated about the same to both parties."
Politicians on the receiving end of Bankman-Fried’s and other FTX executives' political donations may be forced to return them to the bankruptcy trustee in any case, due to bankruptcy proceedings. Up $73 million in donations could be recalled to repay the failed exchange's creditors.
Some politicians have already resorted to giving away their cash to charity in an attempt to distance themselves from the company and its donations.