Stabenow should set aside, not donate, FTX funds

Stabenow says she will donate donations from Samuel Bankman-Fried to a local charity. They should instead be set aside for victims

“At best, these events uncovered an alarming lack of internal controls and egregious governance failures,” Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow said on Dec. 1, at a hearing on the collapse of crypto exchange FTX, which happened weeks prior.

“At worst, Sam Bankman-Fried and his inner circle lied to and stole from over one million customers, some of whom have lost their life savings.”

Which means it’s possible that when FTX owner Bankman-Fried and other company officials donated $55,600 to Stabenow this year, those funds were stolen, too.

From Stabenow’s own mouth, this was an admission that FTX may have stolen its funds. The Dec. 1 hearing was held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which Stabenow chairs.

In August, Stabenow and Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, co-sponsored the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act, which would empower the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to regulate cryptocurrency as a commodity. Industry insiders called the legislation the “SBF bill,” and said it would centralize decentralized finance.

After Michigan Capitol Confidential reported the FTX donations last week, Stabenow’s staff told The Detroit News that she would donate the Bankman-Fried donations to a local charity.”

It was an odd statement, on multiple levels.

First, if the FTX funds are suspect, Stabenow should part ways with all of them. Not just the ones from Bankman-Fried.

And if FTX’s victims lost their life savings, should not funds be set aside, so victims can be paid restitution? If the funds are stolen, they’re not Stabenow’s to donate. They belong to FTX’s victims.

Two of Stabenow’s campaign committees, have returned about $40,000 in donations, according to Federal Election Commission records. Stabenow for U.S. Senate returned about $36,000 in donations, while the Stabenow Victory Fund refunded $4,200 to Stabenow for U.S. Senate. Refunds are not unheard of.

Eric Doster, a Lansing-based campaign finance expert, said that in the eyes of the law, Stabenow can use the funds for “any legal purpose.”

Moral standards are different. Morally, it’s not Stabenow’s place to use the donation of possibly-stolen funds to spin a positive headline. And it is bizarre that a positive headline would be written. Yet here we are.

Debbie Stabenow’s donated donations are not heroic, or praiseworthy. They’re not even complete.

The only move that makes sense, senator, is to set the funds aside so victims can be made whole.

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.