Investigative news outlet ProPublica has announced that it will return a $1.6 million grant it received from FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, who has been charged with orchestrating “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.”
The money was part of a total $5 million grant promised over three years by the Building a Stronger Future foundation – a family foundation run by Sam Bankman-Fried – to Pro Publica.
ProPublica said it received the initial grant in February and used it to create an international team to report on COVID-19 and other possible future outbreaks.
On Tuesday, the news outlet said that it had returned the $1.6 million and terminated its relationship with the foundation.
Bankman-Fried has been indicted on eight criminal charges, including wire fraud and conspiracy by misusing customer funds.
The FTX founder was arrested on Monday in the Bahamas and was arraigned in a Nassau court on Tuesday.
Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that from 2019 until earlier this year, Bankman-Fried and his co-conspirators stole billions of dollars from FTX customers, using that money for his personal benefit, making personal investments and covering expenses and debts of his hedge fund, Alameda Research.
Bankman-Fried is also charged with violating campaign finance laws “by causing tens of millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to be made to candidates and committees associated with both Democrats and Republicans,” Williams said.
Before FTX’s collapse, Bankman Fried donated at least $40 million in political contributions to Democratic candidates and political action committees.
He also gave millions of dollars to other media outlets, such as Vox and Semafor, and nonprofits, including Guarding Against Pandemics, which is run by his brother, Gabe.
Semafor, a news outlet founded by former Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith and former New York Times media columnist and Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, received $25 million from Bankman-Fried before the collapse and has come under fire for not returning it.
Semafor said in a statement to blogger Mickey Klaus that it is “monitoring the evolving situation closely.”
Semafor also recently got into a Twitter battle with Elon Musk after the outlet published an article claiming Bankman-Fried owned $100 million in Twitter. Musk denied the claim and called out the professional integrity of the outlet, pointing out Bankman-Fried’s ownership in Semafor.
As I said, neither I nor Twitter have taken any investment from SBF/FTX. Your article is a lie.
Now, I’m asking again, how much of you does SBF own?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 23, 2022
Semafor responded, saying, ” Like you and many others, we took an investment from him. We have covered him aggressively and disclose it every time we write about him.”
Like you and many others, we took an investment from him. We have covered him aggressively, and disclose it every time we write about him, including here https://t.co/7yS5166PtP.
— Ben Smith (@semaforben) November 23, 2022