SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — Massachusetts Congressman Jake Auchincloss is standing by his decision to keep a $5,800 donation from FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried even after the cryptocurrency leader’s arrest on Monday.
Authorities in the Bahamas took Bankman-Fried into custody a day before U.S. officials indicted him for financial crimes and campaign-finance violations stemming from his leadership of FTX, the crypto trading exchange he founded, which collapsed in spectacular public fashion over recent weeks.
Auchincloss, a Democrat whose district stretches from Fall River north to Newton, has been among the most prominent members of his party expressing openness to crypto since taking office two years ago. He serves as vice-chair of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the sector and is holding a hearing on it Tuesday.
Bankman-Fried donated $5,800 to Auchincloss earlier this year, the maximum donation allowed under federal law, one of multiple campaign contributions the lawmaker received from FTX officials.
Auchincloss has steadfastly refused to give up the FTX cash since the company fell into scandal, and initially dodged questions about the subject altogether. On Tuesday morning he indicated to Boston radio station WBUR he has no plans to return the money or donate it.
“I’m not going to send money to a guy sitting in a Bahamman jail, that’s for sure,” Auchincloss told WBUR. “That money is out the door helping to elect Democrats.”
Plenty of Auchincloss’s campaign cash is not in fact out the door, however; he had $2.4 million in his campaign account as of Nov. 28, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Auchincloss has come under increasing criticism over his friendliness toward the crypto industry in recent weeks, notably for being one of eight congressman who signed a bipartisan letter in March questioning the SEC’s efforts to regulate such firms. He has dismissed the criticism and expressed no regrets about signing the letter.
“That letter was not asking for the SEC to back off,” Auchincloss told MSNBC earlier this month. “That is the SEC doing CYA here. That letter didn’t even mention FTX. That letter was asking the SEC to focus on the whales, not the minnows. FTX is clearly a whale.”
Auchincloss was unopposed for a second term in last month’s election.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook