Budding Republican mega-donor Ryan Salame has secretly spent $13.4 million of his personal fortune to support 15 GOP congressional candidates in the just-concluded 2022 primary.
Salame, a 29-year-old cryptocurrency mogul, lives in the Bahamas, the headquarters of FTX Digital Markets, the company he oversees as chief executive officer. But he hails from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and as a self-proclaimed “libertarian” Republican, he chose to get involved in politics this year because he believes the federal government is woefully unprepared for the next pandemic. So Salame launched a Super PAC to promote like-minded candidates in the GOP primary.
“I’ve had a lot of success on the personal side, in the business sphere, and I think from that [I was] trying to think of ways we could really benefit America and the citizens of the United States — suggesting something for future generations,” Salame said Washington Examiner in his first interview on Thursday to talk about his super PAC, American Dream Federal Action.
“As we were living through and going through COVID, it became abundantly clear that we are not prepared for pandemics and not for … future viral outbreaks,” Salame said. “It’s really important — and it’s one of the best things we can do for future generations, to make sure we’re prepared for them.”
With American Dream Federal Action, Salame joins the growing roster of young finance and technology entrepreneurs and executives who are delving into politics and using their wealth to support Democratic and Republican candidates respectively. Prominent among them is Salame’s colleague Sam Bankman-Fried, who has become a major donor to the Democrats. Bankman-Fried is the founder of FTX Digital Markets, a Bahamas-registered cryptocurrency exchange and CEO of parent company FTX Trading Ltd.
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Despite Salame’s libertarian leanings, he concluded that effective preparation for the next coronavirus-type pandemic must be led by the federal government. That, he decided, will only happen if members of Congress make the issue a priority and pass the necessary legislation. Early in the process, along with the political team he assembled in his Super PAC, he screened Republicans running for the House and Senate and eventually endorsed 15 who supported his passion for pandemic preparedness.
On average, Salame invested nearly $900,000 in each candidate’s elementary school. Thirteen won their respective nominations, including: Senator John Boozman (R-AR); MP Brad Finstad (R-MN); Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID); MP Dusty Johnson (R-SD); MP David Schweikert (R-AZ); Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), the GOP Senate nominee in North Carolina; and Katie Britt, the GOP Senate nominee in Alabama.
Also supported by Salame’s Super-PAC were Erin Houchin, the GOP nominee in Indiana’s 9th congressional district; Bo Hines, the GOP candidate in North Carolina’s 13th congressional district; Dale Strong, the GOP nominee in Alabama’s 5th congressional district; Eli Crane, the GOP candidate in Arizona’s 2nd congressional district; Mark Alford, the GOP candidate in Missouri’s 4th congressional district; and Aaron Beane, the GOP nominee in Florida’s 4th congressional district.
Only two of the Republicans backed by American Dream Federal Action fell short in their primary: Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Matt Mowers, who ran for the nomination in New Hampshire’s 1st congressional district. Salame indicated that his foray into politics was a long-term proposition and said he learned a lot about the process with that initial effort.
“Being relatively new to this field, I wasn’t quite sure how much it would take to make a real impact. In the beginning, I wanted to keep it under $25 million,” Salame said. “There is no exact science. We look at the candidates holistically, look at what they have previously said about pandemics, see if there is a history, and then proceed with the candidates that way.”
As for the next midterm elections, Salame was vague.
Salame did point out, however, that American Dream Federal Action probably won’t pour nearly as much money into the fall campaign as the group did in the Republican primary to promote the 13 candidates he supports running for election in November.
“We will play in general [election]’ he said, ‘but to a lesser extent than in elementary school.’
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When childless single Salame is not in the Bahamas running FTX Digital Markets, he is in Washington, DC, where he also has residency. Before dedicating his energies to politics, Salame, who grew up working menial restaurant jobs in Berkshire County, used his fortune to open several restaurants in and around his hometown.
His plan for American Dream Federal Action in the upcoming election is to continue supporting Republican candidates who believe in improving the federal government’s ability to respond to pandemics. Despite the country’s recent experience with COVID-19, Salame believes Washington is completely unprepared to deal with the challenges that would likely come with any future crisis.
“I would go as far as to say, ‘Not prepared at all,'” Salame said.