(The Center Square) – A bipartisan group of Oregon legislators is calling for the state Democratic Party to return a falsely-reported donation from an FTX executive.
“The need for accountability and transparency has never been greater,” state Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said in a May 22 press release. “Investigations must be conducted by outside, independent counsel. They can’t escape this.”
The Democratic Party of Oregon is facing a $15,000 fine after misreporting a $500,000 donation from former FTX cryptocurrency executive Nishad Singh as coming from payment processor Prime Trust, according to The Oregonian.
Singh made the donation on Oct. 4, 2022, according to an April 25 memo from Kevin Gleim, a secretary of state attorney. Singh listed Prime Trust as the payment’s origin, and told the party through an agent that he “prefers Prime Trust (though not strongly) so go w[ith] that.” The party later changed its disclosure to list Singh, but after the deadline for any changes.
“This deprived the public of knowing who was contributing enormous sums of money to the Democratic Party of Oregon,” Gleim wrote.
Singh was the director of engineering for the now-defunct crypto exchange FTX. He pleaded guilty on Feb. 28 in a federal court to charges including conspiring to commit securities and commodities fraud, according to The Wall Street Journal. He admitted in court to having made illegal campaign donations with funds from Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund established by FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York told the Democratic Party of Oregon that it believed the $500,000 contribution at issue in this case was funded with money wrongfully taken by Sam Bankman-Fried from FTX and Alameda,” said Secretary of State Communications Director Ben Morris in a press release.
Bankman-Fried faces eight charges related to wire and securities fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to avoid campaign finance regulations, according to CNBC.
The party would usually face a $35,000 fine for this violation, according to Gleim’s memo. But according to The Oregonian, election officials under acting Secretary of State Cheryl Myers cut the fine to $15,000 and pledged to drop the criminal investigation unless new evidence merits. In turn, Morris said the party agreed to be more transparent, establish internal training, and face more fines up to $50,000 if it fails to do so.
The secretary of state’s elections division referred the investigation to the Oregon Department of Justice for review and potential prosecution, according to the May 18 press release.
“After a seven-month investigation, we believe this is sufficient information to justify a referral to the Oregon Department of Justice to consider prosecuting Mr. Singh under state law for making a contribution in a false name,” Secretary of State Elections Manager Alma Whalen said.
State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum had recused herself from investigating the party, according to the Oregon Capital Chronicle, to which she had donated more than $115,000 through her campaign fund since 2012.
But the Secretary of State Elections Director Molly Woon had not recused herself from the investigation.
Woon spent more than three years with the state Democratic party, first as communications director then as deputy director, according to LinkedIn. She worked for the state Senate Democratic Majority Office from 2007 to 2012, and the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund from 2007 to 2009. Woon has given $50 to Democrats since 2018.
Since 2018, Meyers has donated $2,425 to Democratic and allied causes. She had not publicly recused herself either.
Myers took office after her predecessor, Shemia Fagan, resigned earlier this month after revelations of her lucrative contract with an Oregon cannabis company, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
The Center Square reached out to the state Democratic party and Woon for comment, but did not hear back in time for publication. Myers’ office declined to offer original comment.