State election officials fine Democratic Party of Oregon for cryptocurrency donation flap

By Lauren Dake (OPB)
May 12, 2023 10:32 p.m. Updated: May 13, 2023 12:17 a.m.

State election officials are fining the Democratic Party of Oregon a $15,000 late filing fee after the party changed the donor of a hefty campaign check.

The state also plans to monitor the Democratic Party of Oregon’s financial disclosures to ensure campaign finance laws are being followed in the future. The secretary of state’s office initially proposed fining the party $35,000 after a three-month investigation but lowered the amount.


“While the financial penalties are significant, the most important part of the settlement are the numerous oversight requirements the DPO has agreed to, including spot checks by Elections Division investigators, to ensure compliance with all state campaign finance laws,” Cheryl Myers, acting secretary of state said in a statement. “In too many cases, people who violate campaign finance laws pay a fine and move on.”

But if for some reason the DPO doesn’t comply with the oversight requirements reached in the settlement, they could be on the hook to pay a larger fine up to $50,000.

The state was prompted to take a closer look at $500,000 contribution in question after The Oregonian/OregonLive reported the contribution was not actually from Prime Trust, which is how Democratic Party officials reported it on their campaign finance filings. Instead, Prime Trust was merely a pass-through and the donation really came from Nishad Singh, a former executive at the disgraced cryptocurrency exchange FTX.


The fine concludes the investigation into the state Democratic party, but officials are still looking into whether Singh’s actions were a violation of the law.

“We have closed the investigation into whether DPO reported a contribution under a false name, and we are focusing that investigation on Nishad Singh. This settlement allows the possibility of reopening an investigation into the DPO if new information comes to light,” Myers said.

DPO Executive Director Brad Martin said in an email that the party chose to move forward with the settlement in order to eliminate distractions from its primary goal: electing Democrats.

“The DPO accepts this settlement and welcomes today’s closure of a case that boiled down to an individual lying about a donation and the DPO making the correct information available as soon as it learned about the donor’s lie,” the statement read.

FTX, the exchange Singh worked for, has come under intense scrutiny amid charges its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, defrauded investors.

Bankman-Fried and his associates are also face accusations they violated campaign finance laws by routing money through “straw” donors — people who made contributions at FTX officials’ behest — in order to avoid federal giving limits.

It’s a felony to make a campaign contribution under a false name. Oregon has no campaign finance limits for state political races and causes, and Singh could have given the $500,000 to the state party in his own name.

State election officials are still conducting a preliminary investigation into whether the contribution was made using a false name.