An epic scandal involving an overnight billionaire who unexpectedly became one of the nation’s largest political donors, one might think, could jump-start the stalled effort to reform the role of money in politics.
However, while the collapse of Sam Bankman-crypto Fried’s empire has already prompted changes in the crypto industry and beyond, it is unlikely that the loophole-ridden campaign finance rules that allowed the 30-year-old executive from a controversial new industry to buy friends and influence people in Washington will be changed anytime soon, despite widespread public frustration with perceived corruption.
“I don’t think it’ll change anything in Washington,” said Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor and activist who ran for president as a protest candidate in 2016 to advocate for campaign finance reform. “The truth is that Congress prefers to have access to large sums of money. They’re all happy to play an insider’s game.”
Even critics of money in politics accepted Bankman-checks, Fried’s including a major campaign finance watchdog group and progressive lawmakers aligned with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
For example, the Campaign Legal Center, a leading Washington organization founded by a former Federal Election Commission chairman, took $2.5 million from Bankman-Fried and now says it will return it because “Bankman-alleged Fried’s actions… betray CLC’s mission.”
According to NBC News, the organization accepted Bankman-funds Fried’s after “careful vetting,” which included “consulting with other nonprofit organizations who vouched for his apparent legitimacy at the time.”
“We cannot change the past, but we can change the future,” the organization stated in a statement. “CLC will now proceed, carrying on our decades-long work to ensure that every eligible voter can participate in and influence the democratic process.”