Sam Bankman-Fried developed relationships with A-list celebrities, politicians and investors – but one power couple in particular was key to raising his profile in influential and moneyed circles.
Bill Clinton paid the disgraced FTX CEO $250,000 to speak at the Crypto Bahamas Conference in April, sources told The Post. In the ultimate tropical shindig, the former US president famously appeared on stage alongside former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, alongside Bankman-Fried.
Shortly after, Bill and Hillary Clinton invited the 30-year-old Bankman-Fried, known in crypto circles as “SBF,” to speak at the annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York — effectively an endorsement of the former FTX CEO. Insiders told The Post that it was instrumental in boosting his profile among politicians and deep-pocketed investors.
The Clinton Foundation website posted a headshot of Bankmen-Fried as a speaker at the September shindig alongside notables such as Matt Damon, Gavin Newson, Melinda French Gates and Larry Fink. He is also listed as a speaker in an article on the website leading up to the event.
Bankman-Fried, who lived full-time in the Bahamas before being extradited to the United States in December last year, mostly spoke virtually at conferences.
Asked for comment on the incident, a spokesperson for the Clintons responded: “SBF has never appeared on stage in CGI – in person or virtually.”
People close to the Clintons say the relationship between the 30-year-old cryptocurrency chief and the power couple follows a familiar script: high-profile business leaders gain credibility by siding with the Clintons, and the Clintons receive checks in return.
“The Clintons’ involvement gave SBF some air cover,” one former confidante told The Post.
It’s been a painful ride for the buyers of FTX, as the top 50 of the bankrupt firm’s 1 million creditors owe $3.1 billion, according to court documents. This week, FTX’s new leadership said it aims to return tens of millions of dollars in political donations made by Bankman-Fried and other FTX executives.
In response, many beneficiaries of Bankman-Fried’s money gave it all back. Political action committees, such as the Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC, have pledged to return the millions. Beto O’Rourke’s Texas gubernatorial campaign returned $1 million, while Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) and incoming House Speaker Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) donated FTX donations to charity.
The Clintons remained silent. Legal experts say Clinton’s speaking fee is unlikely to be returned, but critics say it’s inappropriate to hold onto the cash at a time when thousands have lost their pensions and savings at the hands of Bankman-Fried.
“I don’t think every public figure should give back every dollar from every tainted source, but keeping money that a Ponzi scheme orchestrated for you to trust is clearly wrong,” Jeff Hauser, founder and CEO. The Revolving Door Project, a progressive group that studies money and corruption in politics, told The Post.
“They should just apologize and give the money back now,” another insider told The Post. “It’s only going to get worse.”
Former Hollywood agent Michael Kives served as an aide to Bill and Hillary Clinton, sources told The Post. Kives, who now runs a venture firm called K5 Global, reportedly took over $300 million last year from Alameda Research, FTX’s now-defunct investment arm.
Kives declined to comment. An attorney for Bankman-Fried did not respond to a request for comment.
This isn’t the first time the Clintons have tangled with accused fraudsters like Bankman-Fried. In 2015, they appeared at the Clinton Global Initiative with Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, where Bill interviewed the convicted fraudster about the future of equality and opportunity.
Holmes was even set to fundraise for Hillary’s 2016 presidential campaign — more than five months after the blockbuster Wall Street Journal story broke allegations of wrongdoing. It was canceled days ago.