Congressman and Chicago mayoral candidate Jesús “Chuy” García said Friday he’s never spoken to Sam Bankman-Fried and doesn’t know why the disgraced founder of FTX took a six-figure interest in García’s recent reelection to his U.S. House seat.
“I don’t know the gentleman. I’ve never spoke to him. If he had other designs, I don’t know,” García said Friday at an appearance to unveil his public safety platform.
García’s congressional campaign fund got a $2,900 direct contribution from Bankman-Fried in June, according to the Federal Election Commission reports, and a political action committee associated with Bankman-Fried spent $151,420 on mailers promoting García’s candidacy in the 4th Congressional District, even though he was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
García said he returned the direct contribution. The money for the mailers was a separate, independent expenditure by the PAC Protect Our Future, which, García said Friday, “by law and by definition, I had nothing to do with it.”
“Recall that when I ran for reelection for the House, I was unopposed. Didn’t need the money, didn’t ask for the money,” he said.
Following FTX’s stunning implosion into bankruptcy late last year, Bankman-Fried was charged with cheating investors and customers on his cryptocurrency trading platform.
García first brought up Bankman-Fried Friday in a dig at Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who officially welcomed Bankman-Fried’s FTX cryptocurrency business to Chicago in May, when the company opened a since-shuttered headquarters in Fulton Market. Lightfoot and García are among nine candidates in the Feb. 28 mayoral election.
“First of all, I would not invite Sam Bankman-Fried to come to Chicago and open an office and make a contribution to (a city program for formerly incarcerated people), and then things fall apart, which is what is happening,” García said.
When a reporter later asked about his own ties to the FTX founder, García, in addition to distancing himself from Bankman-Fried, stressed he’s been a longtime critic of crypto and has “stated that it needs to be regulated, that it is volatile that it endangers our financial system.”
When asked about a “meeting” involving García and FTX, the congressman said he merely “had a phone call with his brother to talk about pandemics and his brother’s interest in pandemic preparedness.”
García said Bankman-Fried’s brother — who reportedly ran a nonprofit called Guarding Against Pandemics — spoke of García’s “advocacy for the most impacted communities during the pandemic … and I suppose he took an interest in that.”