When it comes to returning campaign donations from America’s most notorious financial fraudster, put Ray Buckley down as a maybe.
After weeks of dodging press questions on the more than $30,000 she received from alleged crypto crook Sam Bankman-Fried, Sen. Maggie Hassan has finally relented, telling the Union Leader she is giving back the cash. But her fellow Democrats at the state Democratic Party are keeping their SBF donations, at least for now.
Hassan and Chairman Ray Buckley’s state party organization were among the top 10 recipients in the nation of campaign donations from SBF and his collapsed crypto FTX empire in the 2022 election cycle. Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster each received $2,900 from FTX, which Pappas has donated to charity, according to Coindesk.
Rep. Annie Kuster declined to respond to questions about her plans for the cash.
For weeks, Hassan also refused to comment, despite being tied with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) as the top individual recipient of SBF cash. Now the Union Leader reported a decision had been made.
“Contributions made towards Sen. Hassan’s 2022 campaign have already been spent. As additional funds are raised, the campaign will set aside the amount of those contributions to be returned to victims,” Laura Epstein said in a statement.
The state Democratic Party’s spokesperson Monica Venzke had a different response.
“We are awaiting further developments and instructions from the proper authorities relating to the possible return of the funds.”
Buckley has a history of holding onto campaign donations from dubious sources. When tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya made headlines for dismissing China’s ongoing genocide against their Uyghur Muslim population as not worth caring about, other Democratic recipients of his cash returned it. But Buckley kept the $10,000 check.
Bankman-Fried is under indictment for multiple financial crimes from his time as FTX CEO, including accusations he engaged in an illegal campaign finance scheme to help candidates — overwhelmingly Democrats — in last year’s election. In addition to the approximately $40 million he gave to federal candidates and outside groups, SBF is charged with donating at least another $25,000 through straw donations.
While donations to federal candidates are policed by the Federal Election Commission, a spokesperson for state Attorney General John Formella said his office is keeping an eye on the investigation.
“Although federal law is likely controlling, our NH DOJ Election Law Unit is aware of and reviewing FTX-related campaign finance activities,” said spokesperson Michael Garrity.
Formella’s office says he was also investigating a flurry of illegal campaign mailers from a Massachusetts-based firm targeting the Republican NH-02 primary last summer. The firm is represented by Hillary Clinton’s former campaign attorney Marc Elias.