One of the largest, most active dark money groups in the country—the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell-aligned One Nation—brought in more than $124 million in 2022, according to a tax document obtained by CREW. Though One Nation isn’t required to make its donors public, the organization’s finances appear to have been bolstered by two multimillion-dollar contributions from FTX fraudsters Sam Bankman-Fried and Ryan Salame. The two contributions, which together make up the second largest gift One Nation received in 2022, appear to have been enough for the two crypto kings to get a private dinner with McConnell, the most powerful Republican in the Senate.
The evidence that Bankman-Fried and Salame were the source of the funds was introduced during the trial of Bankman-Fried, the disgraced former head of cryptocurrency exchange FTX who was convicted in early November on seven counts of fraud and conspiracy. According to the trial evidence, Bankman-Fried wired $10 million to One Nation in mid-August 2022 and CNBC reported that prosecutors also indicated former FTX executive Salame separately gave One Nation $5.5 million using money from a hedge fund associated with FTX.
The tax document obtained by CREW shows two contributions in those exact amounts, totaling $15.5 million. The $10 million Bankman-Fried allegedly gave to the group is, on its own, the third largest contribution One Nation reported in all of 2022. The sources of two other eight-figure contributions, totaling $11 million and $27.75 million, remain unknown.
Within weeks of the $10 million contribution, both Bankman-Fried and Salame attended a private dinner with McConnell, One Nation’s closest ally in the Senate. According to Puck’s Theodore Schleifer, who first reported on both the contribution and the dinner, both McConnell and Bankman-Fried wanted to be at the dinner because McConnell was “in the final sprint of fundraising for the 2022 midterms” while Bankman-Fried was “seeking a more sympathetic ear for his financial and personal pet projects.”
At the time, McConnell was reportedly working aggressively to assure that One Nation’s sister super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, was well-funded for the coming elections. According to an early September 2022 CNN story, McConnell had “been on the phone with big donors for the past several weeks – going well beyond his traditional call list – in an effort to ensure” that the super PAC was “flush with cash to spend huge sums on TV ads in battleground states in the campaign’s final two months.” Three weeks after that story ran, One Nation transferred $20 million to the Senate Leadership Fund.
Overall, according to the tax return, One Nation shelled out over $60 million in contributions to the Senate Leadership Fund in 2022, or more than 38 percent of the nonprofit’s total spending last year. Though One Nation doesn’t report it to the IRS as a related organization, Senate Leadership Fund is located in the same office and run by the same people as the dark money group, and it spent more than $246 million supporting Republican Senate candidates in the 2022 midterms, according to OpenSecrets.
One Nation spent an additional $85.8 million on “grassroots issue advocacy,” much of which—according to the group’s own press releases—came in the form of ads critical of the same Democratic senators the super PAC was attacking. Thanks to FEC loopholes, One Nation wasn’t required to report the spending on those ads to the FEC.