Sam Bankman-Fried cultivated ties with A-list celebrities, politicians and investors alike — but one power couple in particular was key to boosting his profile in influential and moneyed circles.
Bill Clinton was paid north of $250,000 when he spoke at the disgraced FTX CEO’s Crypto Bahamas Conference in April, sources told The Post. At the over-the-top tropical shindig, the ex-US president along with former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair were famously photographed onstage next to Bankman-Fried, who appeared wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
Shortly thereafter, Bill and Hillary Clinton invited the 30-year-old Bankman-Fried — known as “SBF” in crypto circles — to speak at their annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York — an effective endorsement of the former FTX CEO that played a pivotal role in elevating his reputation among politicians and deep-pocketed investors alike, insiders told The Post.
On the Clinton Foundation website, Bankman-Fried’s headshot is placed alongside the likes of Matt Damon, Gavin Newson, Melinda French Gates and Larry Fink as a speaker at the September shindig. He’s also mentioned as a speaker in a press release leading up to the event.
Asked for a comment about the event, a spokesperson for the Clintons replied, “SBF was never on stage at CGI,” declining to comment further. Over the past year, Bankman-Fried — who lived full-time in the Bahamas before being extradited to the United States in December — mostly spoke at conferences virtually.
People close to the Clintons say the power couple’s relationship with the scruffy 30-year-old cryptocurrency executive follows a familiar script: buzzy business leaders gain credibility by latching on to the Clintons — and in return, the Clintons get a check.
“The Clintons’ involvement gave SBF some air cover,” one former confidante told The Post.
For those who bought into FTX, it has been a painful ride, with the top 50 of the bankrupt firm’s 1 million creditors owed $3.1 billion, according to court papers. This week, FTX’s new management said it aims to recoup tens of millions of dollars in political donations that Bankman-Fried and other FTX executives had made.
In response, many beneficiaries of Bankman-Fried’s money have handed everything back. Political action committees like the Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC vowed to return millions. Beto O’Rourke’s Texas gubernatorial campaign returned $1 million, while Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and incoming Speaker of the House Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) gave their FTX donations to charity.
The Clintons, on the other hand, have remained silent. Legal experts say it’s unlikely Clinton’s speaking fee will be clawed back, but critics say it’s unseemly to hold onto the cash when thousands of people have lost retirements and savings at the hands of Bankman-Fried.
“I don’t think every public figure has to give back every dollar from every tarnished source, but it’s obviously wrong to hold onto money the orchestrator of a Ponzi scheme paid you to lend their grift credibility,” Jeff Hauser, founder and director of the Revolving Door Project, a progressive group that examines 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 messier.”
Sources told The Post it was former Hollywood agent Michael Kives who served as an aide to Bill and Hillary Clinton who helped connect the two. Kives — who now runs a venture firm called K5 Global — nabbed $300 million last year from FTX’s now-defunct investment arm, Alameda Research, according to reports.
Kives declined to comment. An attorney for Bankman-Fried did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s not the first time the Clintons have gotten tangled up with accused fraudsters like Bankman-Fried. In 2015, they famously got tangled up with Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes at the Clinton Global Initiative, where Bill interviewed the convicted fraudster about the future of equality and opportunity.
Holmes had even prepared to host a fundraiser for Hilary’s 2016 presidential campaign — more than five months after a blockbuster story in the Wall Street Journal broke allegations of wrongdoing. It got canceled days before.