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Donor profile: Foster Friess

Quick stats on the biggest financial backers of Election 2012

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Foster Friess speaking at the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit in Phoenix, Arizona.

Gage Skidmore

Total contributions to super PACs: $2.6 million*

  • $2.1 million to Red, White and Blue Fund (pro-Rick Santorum)
  • $100,000 to Restore Our Future (pro-Mitt Romney)
  • $100,000 to FreedomWorks for America (pro-conservative)
  • $50,000 to Leaders for Families (pro-Rick Santorum)
  • $50,000 to Freedom PAC (pro-Connie Mack; pro-Allen West)
  • $35,000 to USA Super PAC (pro-Richard Mourdock)
  • $26,700 to JAN PAC (pro-Republican)
  • $25,000 to Friends of the Majority (pro-Ben Quayle)
  • $10,000 to the Madison Action Fund (pro-Mitt Romney)
  • $10,000 to Fight for the Dream (pro-Tom Smith)
  • $10,000 to Safe Nation PAC (pro-Charlie Summers)
  • $10,000 to Arizonans for Jobs (pro-Jeff Flake)
  • $10,000 to Freedom Born Fund (pro-Dean Heller; pro-Mitt Romney)
  • $10,000 to Independence Virginia PAC (pro-George Allen)
  • $10,000 to Club for Growth Action (pro-conservative)
  • $5,000 to Fund for Freedom (pro-Linda Lingle)

Notable federal hard money and 527 contributions:

  • $16,934 to the Republican National Committee (2011)
  • $5,000 to the Senate Conservatives Fund (2011)
  • $2,500 to Rick Santorum's presidential campaign (2011)
  • $2,500 to Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign (2011)
  • $1,000 to Mitt Romney presidential campaign (2011)

Corporate name: Friess Associates, LLC

Corporate subsidiaries: Brandywine Fund, Brandywine Blue Fund, Brandywine Advisors Midcap Growth

Total spent on federal lobbying (2007-2012): $0

Lobbying issues: N/A

Family: Wife Lynnette, four children.

Biography:

This Wyoming multimillionaire is known for his philanthropy, eccentricities and dedication to keeping former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign alive. Friess was the top donor to pro-Santorum super PAC Red, White and Blue Fund and the second-biggest donor to the smaller pro-Santorum super PAC Leaders for Families.

Friess believes in small government and free markets, ideals that closely align with the tea party, which explain his contribution to FreedomWorks for America, a tea party-aligned super PAC that is a descendant of Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was founded and funded by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

Friess is an “ally” of the Kochs, according to the New York Times, and has attended their retreats for big political donors. Friess has a history of giving to tea party groups, including $3,300 to the Tea Party Express PAC in 2010. He speaks regularly at tea part events, most notably at the Tea Party Patriots’ 2011 American Policy Summit.

He is also one of the few super donors to have made direct expenditures in support of a candidate. Rather than give through a super PAC, Friess personally spent thousands on pro-Santorum radio and newspaper ads in Friess' birthplace of Rice Lake, Wis., the Center for Public Integrity reported. Before the Wisconsin GOP primary was over, Friess spent roughly $71,600 out of his own pocket on ads and events touting Santorum.

Born in 1940, Friess graduated valedictorian from his high school and was the first in his family to graduate from college, according to a profile on his website profile entitled “The Man Atop the Horse.” After getting his degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin, he served two years in the U.S. Army Intelligence, according to BusinessWeek.

He launched Friess Associates, an investment firm, in 1974 and made his millions through Brandywine Fund, Friess Associates' mutual fund. In 2001, Friess sold a controlling stake in Friess Associates to AMG for $247 million, Forbes reported.

After Santorum dropped out of the presidential race, Friess came out in support of Republican Mitt Romney. This was more than a little awkward, considering his outspokenness against Romney when Santorum was still in the running.

At times, Friess has been known to joke, "A liberal, a moderate and a conservative walk into a bar. And the bartender says, 'Hello Mitt.’”

Off-hand comments such as the Romney joke and the now-infamous aspirin-as-birth-control remark on MSNBC ("Back in my days, they’d use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees.”) have drawn scrutiny. But in his current hometown of Jackson, Wyo., Friess is more known for his philanthropy.

The Lynne and Foster Friess Family Foundation is a private, Christian charitable foundation and is his primary vehicle for giving. The foundation had a budget of $60 million in 2011, when it donated $5 million to the National Christian Foundation and $3,333 to the Council for National Policy, a social conservative activism group that has been criticized for its secrecy. The New York Times says its few hundred members are “some of the most powerful conservatives in the country.”

The Foundation has drawn criticism for its support of groups like the Crescent Foundation, whose mission is “to reach Muslims with the Gospel of Christ for the Glory of God.” Friess supports a range of groups that are “helping peaceful Muslims … transcend the 7th century ideology of violence, intimidation, and coercion that threatens them... and us.”

The vast majority of the foundation’s giving since 2005 has been to the National Christian Foundation, which provides bookkeeping and consulting support for individuals and businesses to set up their own Christian charitable foundations, according to the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), which in part is an accrediting association for Christian nonprofits.

Friess remains active in investing, according to BusinessWeek, as he still serves as chairman of Friess Associates and director of the Brandywine funds.

Though the elections turned out less than favorably for Republican super donors, Friess told Politico he doesn't regret his contributions.

“I think it's money well spent because it's part of the process,” Friess said following the Nov. 6 election. “You don't always win."

Last updated: Jan. 30, 2013

*2011-2012 election cycle. Source: Center for Responsive Politics and Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records. Totals include contributions from individuals, family members and corporations that are controlled by the individual super donor.