Peter Thiel floods 2022 GOP races with cash, makes candidates an easy target
Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is injecting huge sums of money into some crucial midterm competitions in 2022 - drawing fire from Republicans looking to tie their rivals to the GOP's Silicon Valley bogeymen.
Why it matters: Whether he supports a candidate or is attacked by one, Thiel embodies the current GOP zeitgeist. His nationalist conservatism mimics the party's transformation in the Trump era. But the fortune he uses to fund like-minded candidates comes from an industry despised by much of that community.
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This dichotomy has spawned at least one notable example this year in which a candidate publicly attacked Thiel just months after attempting to arrange a meeting with him.
Thiel's $ 10 million infusion into a Super PAC in support of author J.D. Vance of "Hillbilly Elegy" was his first major foray into the 2022 cycle. It also opened a line of scrimmage.
During an interview last week, one of Vance's main rivals, former Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel, beat Vance for positioning himself against Big Tech while he “has a guy on the board of Facebook as his biggest political backer ".
Mandel refused to name Thiel. Nor did he mention the numerous approaches he had made to Thiel himself at the beginning of the campaign.
Text messages checked by Axios show that Mandel marked his candidacy for Thiel and asked to meet with him in February and March. Thiel doesn't seem to have reacted.
Further text messages show how Mandel praised Thiel for his appearance in a New York Times profile in 2018. "I think the great people here in the rust belt agree with you," wrote Mandel.
What They Say: "While J.D. Vance tries to talk harshly about big tech, he depends on their money in every aspect of his life," Mandel campaign manager Scott Guthrie said in a statement emailed.
"His campaign is funded by a board member on Facebook and his personal income from his VC company comes from the former CEO of Google and the former CEO of AOL," Guthrie said. "Ohioans know J.D. Vance is a never-trumper and a swindler whose bills are literally paid by Big Tech."
Last week, the Washington Examiner reported that Thiel is investing an additional $ 10 million in a super PAC to support Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, an executive at Thiel's venture capital company and foundation.
Though locally branded, Saving Arizona PAC's focus so far appears to be national. Its digital ads run nationwide, putting Masters as the candidate to tip the Senate majority in favor of Republicans.
The group's website domain was registered by James Blair, a Republican advisor and former top advisor to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Blair didn't respond to inquiries about his role in the group.
In Missouri, Thiel has put a smaller sum - just $ 250,000 - into a super PAC that supports the Senate offer from Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
Thiel also supported Schmitt's predecessor as AG, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), During his 2018 Senate application.
Hawley is now arguably Washington's leading supplier to the nationalist wing, whose ranks Thiel plans to grow next year.
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