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NotedDC — Bankman-Fried holds court as Congress starts hearings

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Sam Bankman-Fried isn’t going out quietly.

The 30-year-old entrepreneur and former CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX is making his first major public appearance since the collapse of his firm.

SBF, as he is known, will sit for an interview with New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin on Wednesday at 5 p.m. as part of the annual DealBook Summit.

FTX filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11, with Bankman-Fried simultaneously stepping down from the company he co-founded in 2019.

The appearance comes on the eve of the first congressional hearing into FTX, an exchange that peaked in value at $32 billion before its collapse, and at a time when legal scrutiny mounts and lawmakers are calling for federal action against executives.

And while most lawyers would recommend someone in his position not say a word amid such looming probes, Bankman-Fried has stayed vocal, tweeting, DM-ing and giving multiple interviews.

The hearings: The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee will hold a hearing on FTX’s collapse Thursday. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Rostin Behnam is set to testify.

Meanwhile, the House Financial Services Committee is set to hold a hearing Dec. 13, with Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) saying earlier this month that the panel “expects to hear from the companies and individuals involved, including Sam Bankman-Fried, Alameda Research, Binance, FTX, and related entities, among others.”

Connection(s): The Agriculture Committee oversees the CFTC.

In August, committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking Republican member John Boozman (Ark.) and members Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced the Digital Commodities Consumer Protection Act (DCCPA), which would give CFTC regulatory authority over exchanges that offer Bitcoin tokens.

The Washington Post reported that the DCCPA was “outlined by Behnam’s agency and then loudly backed by Bankman-Fried, who commanded a phalanx of lobbyists and public relations people.”

The Agriculture Committee put out a “DCCPA Fact Sheet” following FTX’s collapse arguing the bill’s provisions may have prevented the situation.

Midterm spending: Bankman-Fried has been in the public eye all year as one of the biggest Democratic donors of the midterm elections. And, according to an interview posted Tuesday, he donated plenty supporting Republicans, too.

He told YouTuber Tiffany Fong that he “donated about the same amount to both parties” in 2022 and that “all my Republican donations were dark … The reason was not for regulatory reasons. It’s because reporters freak the f— out if you donate to Republicans. They’re all super liberal, and I didn’t want to have that fight.”

Open Secrets places Bankman-Fried sixth in the “Top Individuals Funding Outside Spending Groups” category at $39 million. In terms of donors to liberal groups, he was second only to George Soros.

The bulk of that money went to Protect Our Future PAC. That group backed several candidates in Democratic primaries and spent more than $10 million supporting Carrick Flynn’s unsuccessful primary bid in Oregon’s 6th District. Bankman-Fried also donated to House Majority PAC.

More from The Hill on FTX:

This is NotedDC, we’re The Hill’s Liz Crisp and Amée LaTour. Have a tip or something you want to share? Email us at ecrisp@thehill.com and alatour@thehill.com.

Bipartisan support propels same-sex marriage bill

A dozen Republican senators voted with their Democratic colleagues in favor of the Respect for Marriage Act this week, which aims to provide federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.

The measure, which passed the Senate in a 61-36 vote (two Republicans and one Democrat didn’t vote), has to head back to the House for approval of a Senate-added tweak to provide exceptions for religious liberty.

Here are the Senate Republicans who voted in favor of the proposal, as amended: 

  • Roy Blunt (Mo.) 
  • Richard Burr (N.C.) 
  • Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) 
  • Susan Collins (Maine) 
  • Joni Ernst (Iowa) 
  • Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.) 
  • Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
  • Rob Portman (Ohio) 
  • Mitt Romney (Utah) 
  • Dan Sullivan (Alaska) 
  • Thom Tillis (N.C.) 
  • Todd Young (Ind.) 

Lummis, a social conservative who helped add the religious exemptions to the bill, spoke on the Senate floor, saying she could have avoided backlash by voting against the legislation but she saw it as an issue of individual rights. 

“Striking a balance that protects fundamental religious beliefs with individual liberties was the intent of our forefathers in the U.S. Constitution and I believe the Respect for Marriage Act reflects this balance,” she said in a statement.

Blunt, who is retiring at the end of this term, defended his vote as an opportunity to provide clarity to people on the issue.

“People who are legally married in one state have the same protections and responsibilities in any other state that are offered to and required of marriages,” he said.

Tillis was among the conservative lawmakers who worked to broker the agreement, saying it offers “millions of loving couples in same-sex and interracial marriages the certainty that they will continue to enjoy the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities afforded to all other marriages.”

“Through bipartisan collaboration, we’ve crafted commonsense language to confirm that this legislation fully respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties and diverse beliefs, while leaving intact the core mission of the legislation to protect marriage equality,” he said.

President Biden has said he will sign the bill into law when it gets to his desk.

Why it matters: In upending the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that enshrined abortion rights, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas this summer opened up the possibility that the court could eventually rule against protections for same-sex couples if a case was brought up.

CONGRESS BROKERS DEAL TO AVERT RAIL STRIKE 

Congress has inched a step closer to stopping a crippling rail strike, with the House agreeing to a provision for more paid sick leave for workers.

While it still needs agreement from the Senate, leaders hailed the effort as a significant accomplishment on Wednesday after an ongoing stalemate.

“This overwhelming bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives makes clear that Democrats and Republicans agree that a rail shutdown would be devastating to our economy and families across the country,” President Biden said in a statement.

“The Senate must now act urgently. Without the certainty of a final vote to avoid a shutdown this week, railroads will begin to halt the movement of critical materials like chemicals to clean our drinking water as soon as this weekend,” he added.

The resolution passed in a 290-137 vote just over a week before a looming Dec. 9 strike deadline. Seventy-nine Republicans voted in favor, and eight Democrats voted against it. 

A second resolution that passed 221-207, with support from three Republicans and all Democrats present, would give rail workers seven days of paid sick leave per year — one of the crucial sticking points for union leaders.

The Hill’s Karl Evers-Hillstrom and Mychael Schnell have all the details here.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh are scheduled to meet with Senate Democrats on Thursday to update them on the labor deal that the administration brokered earlier this year that four rail unions rejected.

Dem leadership elections you may not have heard of

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)

House Democrats began their leadership elections Wednesday, solidifying a significant overhaul as the top three Democrats step away from their leadership roles.

Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) were selected as minority leader, whip and Democratic Caucus chair without opposition. Jeffries will be the first Black party leader in Congress. 

Those aren’t the only leadership spots to be filled, and there’s competition for lower-ranking roles. 

Unlike House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), Whip Jim Clyburn (S.C.) opted to run for a different leadership position — assistant leader — rather than return to the rank and file. Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.) launched a last-minute challenge for the No. 4 spot Wednesday, saying the LGBTQ community should be represented in leadership. The vote on this position is expected Thursday.  

A little history: Roll Call reported that the assistant Democratic leader role was “created for [Clyburn] in 2010 to end a messy race with Hoyer for the No. 2 post.” The caucus dropped the assistant leader position down to the No. 4 rank ahead of the 118th Congress, with Caucus chair assuming the No. 3 spot.  

Some other leadership election results to look out for: Caucus vice chair and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) co-chairs. 

Reps. Joyce Beatty (Ohio), Madeleine Dean (Pa.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.) and Ted Lieu (Calif.) all vied for Caucus vice chair — Aguilar’s current role. 

The DPCC “is tasked with developing and supporting a strong Caucus-wide message that forcefully communicates where House Democrats stand,” according to the committee’s website.

Seven House members are running for three DPCC co-chair positions: Veronica Escobar (Texas), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), Dean Phillips (Minn.), Lauren Underwood (Ill.), Susan Wild (Pa.) and Nikema Williams (Ga.).

Rep. Joe Neguse (Colo.) is running to chair the DPCC (Democrats will also be voting on whether to create this “chair of chairs” position).

BRIEFLY

  • Conservative operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman will be putting in 500 hours of work registering voters in under-served D.C. neighborhoods after pleading guilty to sending out thousands of robocalls with false information in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. 
  • Actress and activist Jane Fonda chatted with The Hill’s Judy Kurtz about the return of “Fire Drill Friday” protests and why they are moving from the Capitol to Freedom Plaza. 
  • Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) is planning to run for Indiana governor, setting the stage for a fight over a rare open Senate seat in 2024. Braun was one of a handful of senators who backed Sen. Rick Scott‘s (R-Fla.) failed bid to oust GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) from the minority’s top leadership post. 
  • Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the Islamic State group, was killed in a recent battle, according to reports. 

LOBBY WORLD

The Hill’s Karl Evers-Hillstrom has a weekly roundup of news from the lobbying world (and you can send NotedDC your professional updates too!).

Here are some highlights from this week

  • Justin Goodman, a longtime aide to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), has joined SKDK as an executive vice president in the firm’s public affairs practice.
  • Stephen Boyd, a former chief of staff to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), has joined Horizons Global Solutions as a partner. 

Check out more moves here and send us your updates! 

TRUMP’S LATEST TARGET

Former President Trump attacked mail-in voting on his Truth Social feed this week, despite many Republicans pointing the finger at such denouncements following the GOP’s shortcomings in the midterm elections.

“REMEMBER, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE FAIR & FREE ELECTIONS WITH MAIL-IN BALLOTS – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER. WON’T AND CAN’T HAPPEN!!!” Trump, who has launched a 2024 bid, wrote in a message he reposted about 16 hours later.

Experts generally agree there is no evidence mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, states embraced the process to try to keep people safe. And some states have had mail-in ballots for years without significant issues.

ONE MORE THING

Light it up

The National Christmas Tree is lit up outside the Ellipse park south of the White House on December 1, 2020 in Washington, DC. The 98th annual National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony was virtual this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Nat

It’s time for the 100th lighting of the National Christmas Tree located on the Ellipse near the White House.

President Biden, first lady Jill BidenVice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff are all expected to join the official lighting taking place Wednesday night.

Don’t worry if you didn’t score one of the exclusive invites to see the event in person — the celebration will air on CBS on Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. ET.

Famous faces on hand are expected to include LL Cool J in a return hosting gig, as well as holiday-themed performances from Gloria EstefanShania TwainJoss Stone and others.

According to the National Park Service, which hosts the event in President’s Park along with the National Park Foundation, this year’s tree is a white fir from Pennsylvania that was planted last fall.

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