A lot of wealthy people who get heavily involved in politics do so to protect their business interests. Others pretty obviously think they’re smarter than the impecunious pols they back. This latter category of donors is always at risk to cut out the middleman and run for office themselves.
The latest to succumb to the “let me show you how it’s done” disease is investment manager Foster Friess, a GOP “megadonor” (as Politico calls him) who is now running for governor of Wyoming.
Friess last got national attention in March, when he offered to match up to $2.5 million in contributions to a youth-mentoring program in response to the Parkland massacre. But he’s best known as the donor who propped up Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign, helping the sweater-vested cultural conservative maintain a primary challenge to Mitt Romney that came close to overturning the eventual nominee’s bandwagon. Along the way, Friess managed to attract some unwelcome attention for expressing views that made Santorum look downright forward-thinking. Asked about Santorum’s hostility to publicly subsidized birth control, the mogul said this:
“On this contraceptive thing, my Gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive,” he added. “You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
What the septuagenarian Friess considered a knee-slapper didn’t go over that well with the “gals.” But after all, he wasn’t running for office, was he?
But now he is. After mulling a challenge to GOP senator John Barrasso, Friess is now running for governor of his state. The incumbent, Republican Matt Mead, is term-limited and Friess is joining a field of four other candidates led by State Treasurer Mark Gordon. His money alone will keep him in the running.
One of the great things about being a rich businessperson running for governor as a Republican is that it supplies an insta-campaign platform, as Friess illustrates:
“I’m announcing that I’m officially running for governor,” Friess said. “It’s only going to be one term and I’m going to donate my salary to charities that the people in Wyoming pick. There will be a little contest. I want to harness my ability to bring people companies because of the contacts I have around – mainly around the states, not so much around the world but in other places.”
Who needs an expert on public policy if you can get someone who will hustle the state as an investment opportunity to his fellow “job creators?” And he’s willing to finance a contest for charities with his own money! The one-term pledge may have something to do with the fact that Friess is 78 years old, but it reinforces his non-politician politician aura.
Perhaps Friess learned his lesson about homespun cowboy humor with the “aspirin” gaffe. And if he needs a testimonial, Rick Santorum would surely supply it.
He could even serve as an inspiration to other donors turned candidates. Nevada’s Republican candidates for senate and governor should be grateful that the qualifying deadline for their state’s primaries has already come and gone. Casino baron Sheldon Adelson probably has days when he’d prefer to cut out the middleman and run for office himself.