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Crypto Goes Shopping for a Regulator It Can Push Around

The industry is concerned about how, not whether, it’s regulated.

Sam Bankman-Fried at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on May 12.

Sam Bankman-Fried at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on May 12.

Photographer: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Sam Bankman-Fried, the chief executive officer of FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange, has been getting a lot of attention lately for his wealth, his scruffy aesthetic—he drives a Corolla! He lives with roommates! In a $3,000-a-night resort in a tax haven, but never mind that!—and for his grand ideas about saving us with his money.

Bankman-Fried is what’s known as an effective altruist, which means basically getting as rich as possible and then giving your gains away scientifically. He’s also, because it’s hard to be super-rich without having a lot of pull, a major political donor. Last week, in a podcast interview framed as a look at his philanthropy, he mentioned he might donate between $100 million and $1 billion during the next presidential election cycle. The top end of that range would make him by far the biggest political donor in any US election, by a factor of almost five, and could be huge in helping Democrats retain the presidency and hold seats in Congress. (Bankman-Fried has donated mostly to left-wing politicians and PACs.) It would also help ensure that regulators in the US steer clear of a confrontation with an industry that consumer rights advocates say is pushing an array of dangerous and misleading products.