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FTX Executive Investigated for Potential Campaign Finance Violations in Congressional Bid

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Former FTX executive Ryan Salame and his girlfriend Michelle Bond, a former congressional candidate, are under investigation for potential violations of campaign-finance law. 

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are probing whether the couple unlawfully evaded federal limits on campaign contributions during Bond's 2022 campaign for the Republican primary in New York’s 1st congressional district, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal

The report said investigators are focused on the money Salame donated to Bond, as well as loans she made to her campaign. 

The investigation is separate from the ongoing case against FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who has been charged with embezzlement. 

Salame, although not charged in the FTX case, has been identified as an unnamed co-conspirator mentioned in Bankman-Fried's indictment, allegedly involved in a campaign-finance scheme unrelated to Bond.

The investigation into Bond and Salame commenced in April with the execution of a search warrant at their $4 million mansion in Maryland.

Bond, who entered the GOP primary late last summer for the congressional seat vacated by Lee Zeldin, campaigned on a conservative platform of fighting crime, reducing taxes, and supporting antiabortion policies.

Despite endorsements from Donald Trump Jr. and Sen. Ted Cruz, she lost the primary. 

During her campaign, Bond heavily relied on the support of Salame, as well as contributions from FTX employees and Bankman-Fried's crypto hedge fund.

Bond Raised Over $54,000 From Individuals at FTX

According to Federal Election Commission filings, Bond received just over $56,000 in donations from Salame and other FTX employees.

Overall, she raised nearly $660,000 in contributions. 

Additionally, Bond contributed $145,309 to her own campaign and loaned it nearly $880,000. 

The maximum donation permitted in the 2022 election was $2,900 for a federal candidate's primary campaign and another $2,900 for the general election. 

Candidates are not restricted in the amount they donate to their own campaigns; however, these funds must genuinely be their own.

Sterling Marchand, a campaign-finance lawyer at Baker Botts, explained that while candidates can use personal funds to support their campaigns without limit, it is illegal for them to evade contribution limits by accepting money from friends and relatives.

Back in February, the new FTX management requested political figures and any other recipients of donations made by Sam Bankman-Fried and other FTX executives to return the funds by the end of the month. 

At the time, FTX debtors said that recipients of the donations would be required to repay the amount they have received from FTX executives, even if they have used that amount to make a payment to a third party, including a charity. 

However, by the end of that month, just 2.2%, or $1 million, of the money Bankman-Fried had donated to political candidates from the Democratic Party was returned

In total, the former FTX boss donated some $5.2 million to Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, and well over $40 million to other Democrats ahead of the 2022 midterm election.