Becca Balint’s $1 million crypto benefactor pleads guilty to campaign finance fraud

Published: 3/1/2023 4:27:07 PM
Modified: 3/1/2023 4:26:02 PM

Nishad Singh, a former executive at the now-bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange who bankrolled a $1 million advertising blitz in favor of U.S. Rep. Becca Balint’s primary election bid, pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to several criminal charges, including campaign finance fraud.

Singh’s plea is the latest domino to fall in the saga of Sam Bankman-Fried, a former cryptocurrency wunderkind and political mega donor now accused by federal prosecutors of perpetrating one of the largest financial crimes in U.S. history.

“I am unbelievably sorry for my role in all of this,” Singh, 27, said during a court hearing, according to Reuters, adding that he had known by mid-2022 that Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund, Alameda Research, was borrowing FTX customer funds without telling depositors.

The case against Bankman-Fried is picking up steam. Singh is the third member of his inner circle to agree to collaborate with prosecutors in exchange for a deal. And in a superseding indictment filed last week in federal court, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York filed new charges against Bankman-Fried and outlined new details about an alleged scheme to illegally funnel investor funds to political campaigns through associates to mask their source.

The former CEO of the crypto exchange platform FTX did so, prosecutors wrote, explicitly to curry favor in Washington, D.C., for his preferred regulatory agenda for the industry.

One donation cited in last week’s indictment appears to mirror the circumstances that led to a million-dollar influx of pro-Balint spending in Vermont’s 2022 congressional Democratic primary, although Balint is not named in the indictment and has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Prosecutors allege that Bankman-Fried and associates worked out a scheme to “contribute at least a million dollars to a super PAC that was supporting a candidate running for a United States Congressional seat and appeared to be affiliated with pro-LGBTQ issues.”

According to prosecutors, a political consultant working for Bankman-Fried told an unnamed associate of his to make the contribution, saying, “in general, you being the center left face of our spending will mean you giving to a lot of woke shit for transactional purposes.”

Balint, who made history as the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to Congress from Vermont, benefited in the closing weeks of her hotly contested primary campaign from a million-dollar advertising blitz carried out by LGBTQ Victory Fund, a hybrid political action committee and super PAC. Singh bankrolled the spending, although the timing of his donation allowed his involvement to remain undisclosed until after the primary.

Super PACs can’t legally coordinate with campaigns, and Balint’s campaign manager, Natalie Silver, reiterated, as she has done many times before, that the campaign had “no contact with the LGBTQ Victory Fund federal independent expenditure PAC, and has no knowledge of The LGBTQ Victory Fund’s interactions with their donors or their plans for their funds.”

But there are legal workarounds to the prohibition on coordination, and Balint’s campaign appeared to employ one of these tactics early in the primary.

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