The fallout from the implosion of the FTX empire and its founder Sam Bankman-Fried continues to make headlines, as with each day, we learn that a new company, investor, or celebrity was entangled in its web of hype and overpromotion. The story of the company’s founder, his goofy management style, and the internal rot that brought them all down has answered the thirst for schadenfreude left unquenched since Hulu subscribers finished watching “The Dropout,” detailing the downfall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.
Holmes has just been sentenced to 11 years in prison. FTX looks to be a scandal even more ridiculous and ruinous to those involved. The lists of victims of the FTX crash and the beneficiaries of SBF’s spending sprees—especially media companies, Democratic politicians, and media companies—are noteworthy. Many elected officials have committed to donating the cash received from FTX figures, including Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Representative Kevin Hern (R-Okla.).
One of those beneficiaries is the Democratic Majority for Israel, which, like FTX, was founded in 2019 and quickly became a burgeoning power in its own right as an influencer of both primary and general election campaigns. Progressives have raged as DMFI has spent hefty sums of money on defeating radical Left congressional candidates such as Nina Turner of Ohio and Donna Edwards of Maryland. In May, SBF donated $250,000 to DMFI during the height of the primary season. He also reportedly donated up to $40 million in support of candidates that match his goals. DMFI has not stated whether it will return those funds.
DMFI’s founder Mark Mellman began the group in response to the 2018 midterm election in which the Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives, bringing with them several radical candidates. Among them were three anti-Israel newcomers, Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Mellman was not alone among Democratic professional political advisors in worrying that the party’s leftward drift would hurt the bipartisan consensus in support of a strong relationship with Israel, including annual packages of military aid.
While it may not be the most pressing issue to the American electorate, the battle over U.S. policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has torn apart the American Left and the Democratic Party. But truth be told, much of the support that DMFI affords to its endorsed candidates has nothing to do with Israel policy. For example, the group in 2020 ran an ad against Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) that only mentioned his positions on prescription drugs and the Affordable Care Act. Garbarino, who represents a heavily Jewish part of Long Island and prevailed in both that election and again this year, has no record of adverse voting towards Israel and has been a preferred candidate of a different pro-Israel lobbying group, AIPAC. As far as this policy area goes, there was no perceptible difference between Garbarino and his Democratic opponent.
But this is nowhere near as egregious as DMFI’s support of another Democrat, Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). In 2020 during the primary and general election, the group withheld support for Warnock, who forced a runoff in November of that year with Senator Kelly Loeffler, who failed to reach 50 percent. Seeing a vulnerable seat to flip blue, pro-Israel Democrats organized a video townhall with Warnock, fellow Senate candidate Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. “My opponents are trying to use Israel as yet another wedge issue in this campaign, and I think that’s quite unfortunate. I wish I were surprised. I’m not. They are worried, and they should be,” Warnock said during the event.
Warnock’s remarks mollified staunch Democrats but drew rebukes from clergy and others that remembered his signing of letters comparing Israel’s presence in the West Bank to racial apartheid in South Africa and Namibia. Like in the case of Garbarino, Loeffler’s policy position on Israel was not only supportive, it was dramatically more sympathetic than Warnock, who was backed by DMFI anyway after they shunned him earlier in the campaign. The transformation at breakneck speed was about as seamless as the San Andreas Fault. Warnock never addressed what he’d meant by his previous pronouncements, and DMFI just accepted that he’d had a change of heart in the middle of an election campaign where he needed potential votes and contributions from Jewish Democrats.
Warnock prevailed against Loeffler and is facing University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker in a similar runoff this year. DMFI reportedly intends to spend money on ads to boost Warnock against Walker, once again in a race where the candidates’ positions on the issue are not discernibly different and where, if anyone has a suspect past, it is the Democrat. His past statements and affiliations put Warnock in the same category as Nina Turner. Yet, in their quest for a Democratic Senate majority, groups like DMFI have rehabilitated Warnock’s image, prioritizing him over the very issue for which they supposedly exist. They appear to be poised to do this again, now bolstered by campaign cash given to them by a billionaire cryptocurrency fraudster with apparent ill-gotten gains. It’s as clear a signal as ever that while Israel, Palestine, and indeed the American people always get easy lip service from their self-proclaimed champions, the interests of power and money always get concierge treatment.