Donor profile: Peter Thiel

Quick stats on the biggest financial backers of Election 2012

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Peter Thiel, president of Clarium Capital

Singularity Summit

Ranking: 20

Total contributions to super PACs: $4.7 million*

Notable federal hard money and 527 contributions:

  • $5,000 to Marijuana Policy Project Medical Marijuana PAC (2004)
  • $5,000 to Managed Funds Association PAC (2008)

Notable state-level contributions (see here):

  • $25,900 to California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (2010)
  • $21,200 to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (2003)
  • $70,000 to California ballot measure Yes on 19 — Tax Cannabis 2010 (2010)

Corporate name: Clarium Capital; co-founder, PayPal (sold)

Corporate subsidiaries: None

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

Lobbying issues: N/A

Biography:

Peter Thiel is a technology mogul, an investor, a lawyer and a libertarian-leaning Republican. He believes in creating underwater colonies and has sunk millions into research of life-extending technologies. And he’s Ron Paul’s biggest supporter — at least monetarily.

Thiel (pronounced “teal”) contributed $2.6 million to the pro-Paul super PAC Endorse Liberty. His donation comprised nearly all the group's funds, and Endorse Liberty all but disappeared once Thiel cut off funding when it became clear Paul wouldn't win the GOP presidential nomination. The large donations drew comparisons to Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess, who gave generously to super PACs backing Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. But unlike Gingrich and Santorum, Paul has never met his patron, according to Slate.

Thiel made his fortune as the founder and CEO of PayPal, taking the company public and selling it to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion (Thiel later contributed more than $25,000 to then-CEO Meg Whitman’s 2010 California gubernatorial run). He was an early investor in Facebook, fronting $500,000 and — until recently — owned 2.5 percent of the company. Thiel sold 16.8 million of his shares in May, when Facebook went public, and an additional 20 million shares in August, pocketing a combined $1 billion, CNN Money reported.

Some of Thiel’s other ventures haven’t been quite as successful. The assets of Clarium Capital Management, the hedge fund he founded, shrunk from their peak of $7 billion in mid-2008 to less than $1 billion in mid-2011 — a loss of about 90 percent, Bloomberg reported.

But Thiel is one to take the long view. At a speech he gave in Washington, D.C., in February 2012, Thiel said of his donations to Paul, “The campaign really is for 2016. I think we're just trying to build a libertarian base for the next cycle.”

Editor's Note: We have amended this profile to include those details relevant to Mr. Thiel's background.

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.