Reports of $1 billion pledges to defeat President Obama among the nation’s wealthiest conservatives conjure images of shadowy backroom deals made alongside cigars and scotch. But according to one such billionaire, the donor class actually needs to hang out together more.
Foster Friess was the leading donor to a super PAC supporting Rick Santorum’s campaign and is now donating to Restore Our Future, a similar group backing Romney’s election. On Friday, he attended the conservative Faith & Freedom Conference in Washington D.C.
Friess told TPM that far from coordinating moves with other GOP mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson and Bob Perry, who had backed rival primary candidates, the men have little contact.
“There should be more of that,” he said. “I find that when I’ve done certain projects, like I put up a little video, and I’ve found four other people putting up the same message. Well, we could have pooled our resources and done a much better, more professional than our somewhat amateurish, video. I wish that would happen more, but it doesn’t and it should.”
But Friess said he was more focused on bringing new players into the game than in reaching out to current donors.
“I’ve reached out to a number of potential donors who weren’t involved so much before to help Gov. Romney with his Restore Our Future PAC and try to encourage some of the same things for Gov. Romney as I did for Rick Santorum,” he said.
Friess said he would prefer a system in which donors could give unlimited, publicly disclosed amounts directly to candidates and parties rather than be forced to go through outside groups. But he told TPM that he still supported allowing wealthy backers to hide their donations behind non-profits and trade associations, like the Karl Rove-connected Crossroads GPS.
“A lot of people are intimidated, very intimidated, because they could have repercussions from any government, not just an Obama administration, but a Republican,” he said. “They can say, ‘This guy gave a lot of money against us, so let’s not give him this contract,’ or, ‘Let’s slow up the FDA approval for his drug.’ I believe there’s a tension there, so I think people ought to be able to give to [501c4s] and keep that private.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.