Brothers behind Democrats’ ‘crypto PAC’ say they’re actually pandemic-focused

WASHINGTON – Gabe Bankman-Fried knows he’s going to have a hard time believing him when he says he’s only interested in using his billionaire brother’s money to stop the next pandemic.

“If this is a weird cryptographic game, I certainly wasn’t informed about it,” said Bankman-Fried, the youngest of two millennial brothers who are set to make a big impact on politics and philanthropy in the years to come. “I want to stop the next pandemic. That’s really my only goal here … I think over time, people will realize that.”

Gabe’s older brother Sam, who is estimated to have more than $ 20 billion at the age of 30 after founding the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, has already baffled and angered some strategists, candidates and journalists this year by dropping sums of money. unprecedented in the Democratic Congress primaries. at least $ 18.6 million so far, and they’re just getting started.

The Bankman-Fried brothers gave few interviews about political work, but spoke with NBC News to offer new details about the goals of their joint political operation.

“We’re ambitious and looking to give it a touch,” Gabe Bankman-Fried said. “We certainly haven’t reached our budget yet.”

Democrats across the spectrum have been skeptical of Protect Our Future, the PAC funded largely by Sam Bankman-Fried, with a mixture of fear and greed as it has backed candidates claimed by progressives and moderates.

And spending has earned questionable headlines about the “mystery PAC” behind it. Many rivals and observers have complained that the Bahamas-based billionaire is trying to buy seats in Congress and create a “colony ruled by a distant cryptographic prince,” as the alternative weekly Willamette Week said after Protect Our Future spent more than 11 million dollars in support. a previously little-known candidate in a crowded Oregon Congressional primary, making her the most expensive House candidate in the country this year.

That candidate, Carrick Flynn, ended up losing easily in Tuesday’s primaries despite spending, though the PAC won in two other primaries in other states that day.

“I’m obviously disappointed with the result in Oregon, but I’m excited that Valerie Foushee and Morgan McGarvey won their primaries in North Carolina and Kentucky,” said Sam Bankman-Fried. “And I hope to have two strong champions for pandemic prevention in Congress when they win their election this fall.”

Critics see spending as part of a growing effort by the cryptocurrency industry to buy friends in Washington and say the conversation about pandemic prevention is just a showcase of PR.

But both the brothers and their relatives insist that their motives recede.

They say they are inspired by the “win to give” model and the movement of effective altruism, a clumsy approach to philanthropy and life that calls for doing the best for most people, informed by the cold mathematics of the data.

The siblings were immersed in these ideas from an early age by their parents, both Stanford law professors.

His father once put a kitchen renovation on hold so he could use the money to hire a lobbyist on his quixotic mission to get the government to tax Americans for them. And his mother’s work in the philosophical field of consequentialism “is at the root of effective altruism and has guided all four of our lives,” Sam. he wrote on Twitter. “In fact, many (effective altruists) knew of his work before he met me.”

Protect Our Future has invested heavily in Flynn (the PAC has spent more on the Oregon race than on the other eight races it has competed in so far, combined), because Flynn leaves the world of effective altruism, investigating issues such as pandemic prevention at a Oxford University which serves as the academic center for the movement.

Among the problems that often plague effective altruists are “long tail risks”: low-probability but existential threats to humanity. And they are interested in finding places where they can get the most out of their marginal money.

There are already many people working on climate change and nuclear war, but few are working on pandemic prevention, so Gabe Bankman-Fried said they chose to focus on a “mix of importance and political opportunity” as Covid-19 created . a unique interest in the blue moon for pandemics.

“No one supports pandemics, but pandemic prevention and biosecurity have millions of followers and no champions,” Gabe Bankman-Fried said. “It’s a tough battle to get members of Congress to care and prioritize an issue.”

The brothers want to help elect lawmakers who will move forward with legislation to start preparing for the next pandemic by doing things like biosafety rules more and more, allocating funds to proactively develop vaccines for the next superbacterium, storing more personal protective equipment and change building codes to create spaces. less likely to spread germs.

They also spent $ 12 million to get a measure on the ballot in California to raise taxes on the rich to fund pandemic prevention efforts in the state.

Skeptics, however, noted that several of the groups’ “champions” are also proponents of the cryptographic industry, such as Rep. Richie Torres, DN.Y., who has publicly argued that the Liberals should embrace the industry.

Sam Bankman-Fried has donated $ 2 million to an industry PAC whose stated goal is to promote cryptocurrency-compatible candidates. And personally, he has extended his donations to a wide range of candidates, which is common for companies looking to maintain access to the Capitol. He also testified before Congress several times about cryptographic regulation.

Due to campaign finance laws, the two brothers work together through a somewhat complicated process.

Gabe Bankman-Fried leads a group called Guarding Against Pandemics, which is a 501 (c) 4 non-profit organization that examines and endorses candidates from both parties who he thinks will be “champions” for pandemic prevention.

Protect Our Future, led by Democratic agents, then develop and implement campaigns to support some of the Democrats, but not Republicans, Gabe Bankman-Fried’s group endorsed.

Another FTX billionaire, co-CEO Ryan Salame, recently launched his own PAC to support Republicans “looking to the future.”

People running Protect Our Future are linked to a network of data-driven Democratic officials and writers sometimes called “populists,” and Sean McElwee, the founder of the progressive expert group Data for Progress, advised them.

“We are looking for more champions to support in this important work,” said Michael Sadowsky, president of Protect Our Future.

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