Texas congressman Ron Paul may be running in fourth place in the most recent national polls for the Republican presidential nomination, but he's first in the heart of PayPal founder and hedge fund manager Peter Thiel.
With a $1.7 million donation in January added to the $900,000 he's already given, Thiel is responsible for 76 percent of Endorse Liberty's $3.4 million in total receipts, according to Federal Election Commission disclosure records released Monday.
In 1998, Thiel was a co-founder of PayPal, the online payment service that revolutionized the way commerce is conducted online. EBay Inc., the Internet auction service, bought PayPal for $1.5 billion in Ocotober 2002, making the technology pioneer a very wealthy man.
Thiel, 44, a former securities lawyer and self-described Libertarian, blames regulation for hurting innovation, a view that dovetails with Paul's platform. Thiel founded hedge fund Clarium Capital Management LLC in 2002.
Endorse Liberty was created by three young businessmen and one seasoned corporate veteran. Abe Niederhauser and Jeffrey Harmon both work in the marketing department at the bad-breath-combating company Orabrush, and they’ve taken the company’s bold, youthful marketing strategy and applied it to their endorsements of Ron Paul.
Ladd Christensen, who like Niederhauser and Harmon is a Utah resident, has ties to the Huntsman Corp., founded by Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., father of Jon Jr., who dropped out of the race.
The majority of Endorse Liberty’s expenditures have gone toward ads on websites like Google, Facebook and StumbleUpon.com, according to FEC reports. The PAC has also created parody videos of other Republican presidential candidates, including Romney, Gingrich and Santorum.
Thiel was an early investor in Facebook, reportedly investing $500,000 in the unknown startup. His stake is now worth more than $2 billion, according to several reports.
Unlike other super PACs supporting presidential candidates, Endorse Liberty has no apparent connection to the Paul campaign.
In the latest Gallup national tracking poll, released Sunday, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum would draw 36 percent of the Republican vote; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is at 28 percent; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is at 13 percent while Paul is at 11 percent.