Who is Foster Friess?: 5 Things to Know about the Man Behind Rick Santorum's Super PAC

on February 08 2012 12:31 PM
Foster Friess
Foster Friess has a long history of controversies. Most recently a statement he made Wednesday has been interpreted as a form of threat against President Barack Obama. Here's a run-down of some of the major Republican donor's top controversies. Flickr

A week ago it was beginning to look like Santorum was out of the running in the Republican Primaries, but after a strong showing last night in Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota he may have another shot at becoming his party's anti-Romney candidate. Much of Rick Santorum's success is due to the financial support of Foster Friess, a wealthy Republican who has endorsed Santorum through the creation and funding of Super PAC. Whether or not Rick Santorum is chosen by his party to take on President Obama, the conservative Billionaire who has fueled Santorum's campaign will most likely continue to exert influence over the 2012 election. Here are five things you should know about the self-dubbed Man Atop the Horse.

1. He's got his own Super PAC. Friess set up the Red, White and Blue Fund so that he could donate an unlimited amount of his wealth to the candidate (or candidates) of his choice. Super Political Action Committees (PACs) are a relatively new creation allowed by the U.S. government that permits unlimited campaign donations from private individuals or corporations. They are legally barred from coordinating with the candidate they support, although there are certainly loopholes to that rule.

So far, Santorum's campaign has spent less than a million dollars during the election cycle, while the Red, White and Blue Fund has spent $2.2 million on pro-Santorum ads like this one, and over $70,000 in support of Newt Gingrich. Friess is the largest donator to the fund, but has not disclosed how much money he has given,

2. He's committed to supporting Rick Santorum, for now. Friess has committed to supporting Santorum through February and March, and expressed hope that the candidate will continue to campaign until the 2012 Republican National Convention thi, s in August.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Friess said, I'm committed to Rick Santorum, and I'm going to be giving more to Rick Santorum.

While talking with ABC News, Friess explained that Santorum may be the best candidate to take down Obama, saying, If you were to call up central casting and say, 'Send me over someone to run against this dynamic, articulate, charismatic, 50-year-old president of ours, and then they listed Rick's qualities ... 53 years old, starts each morning with 50 push-ups, is the grandson of a coal miner, has demonstrated the ability to win blue collar votes by winning in Pennsylvania, which had over 1 million Democratic registration advantage, and grew up on a Veterans Administration hospital grounds where his father worked, and is a fellow of modest means.

3. He's richer than he ever thought he would be and he likes to share. In 1974 Foster Friess and his wife, Lyn, launched Friess Associates. The cornerstone of their company was the Brandywine Fund, which averaged 20 percent annual gains throughout the 1990s.

The firm grew beyond any expectations we could have ever imagined, he told WyoFile in an interview.

Friess was born in Wisconsin in 1940 to a mother who dropped out of school to pick cotton and a father who dealt cattle and horses for a living. He grew up on a ranch before attending the University of Wisconsin for a degree in Business Administration. He currently lives in in Wyoming with his family because of its low taxes, he candidly admitted to the WyoFile.

Friess has been known to donate large amounts of money to charity as well as to political causes. According to WyoFile, at his 70th birthday party last year, while hosting his friends for four days and dinners, receptions and activities, Friess asked each guest to write down the name of their favorite charity. He said he would choose one to donate $70,000 to, but later surprised his guests by writing a $70,000 check to each charity his guests had picked, donating a total of $7.7 million.

4. He's a born-again Christian. In October 1978 Friess has achieved professional success but his personal life was unfulfilled.

I did one of those 'born again' things and invited Jesus to become the chairman of the board; of my life, he said.

5. He killed a giant crocodile in Tanzania. While on safari in Africa he hunted down and shot the beast, according to The New Republic.

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