When tech billionaire Peter Thiel pours money into candidates, he’s not just donating, he’s donating. He is embracing a new strategy to reshape the way campaigns are conducted — one that legal experts say is upending traditional campaign law.
Although Thiel’s donations often make headlines, he doesn’t give most of the money to individual candidates. This is mainly because he can’t do it. Federal law caps individual campaign contributions to a relatively low level — $5,800 for a full election cycle.
Instead, most of Thiel’s cash went to outside groups called super PACs, which, unlike campaigns, can accept unlimited funding from individuals and companies.
But Super PAC Thiel’s funding isn’t just any super PAC. Each of them is focused on one candidate, and only one candidate. In Ohio, Thiel owns JD Vance, and in Arizona, he owns Blake Masters.
A single focus is part of a Republican political trend.according to data Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that while there are currently about 100 fewer single-candidate super PACs than in mid-2018, they have raised and spent more than $30 million, more than $30 million higher than the 2018 total — – The final phase is still a few months away.
Republicans dominate this field. In 2018, one-third of single-candidate super PACs (or “SCSPs”) were liberal.According to CRP, the rate is half that this year data. Republican groups also outspend their Democratic counterparts $144.1 million to $10.6 million. (Democrats tend to roll out more “pop-up” PACs in the weeks leading up to the election.)
The watchdog said the groups had unique concerns about corruption and fairness in elections. In Thiel’s case, this is part of a broader attempt to influence the shape of the political playing field itself.
As head of the super PAC supporting Vance, Luke Thompson recently put itwhich is “a way of putting myself in the role of a super PAC, playing some of the roles traditionally played by campaigns.”
“This is a disturbing new development,” said Adav Noti, vice president and legal director of the Campaign Law Center.
“The premise of super PACs is that they operate completely independently of any candidate,” Noti explained, referring to Citizens United The Supreme Court decision that produced the super PAC a decade ago.
“However, we’ve seen less and less separation over time. When you have a super PAC that basically acts as the day-to-day running of a campaign, that’s obviously corrupt,” he said.
Noti’s organization, the CLC, recently brought legal action against Thiel’s pro-Vance super PAC, Protect Ohio Values, and the Vance Movement. It accused the groups of using secret websites to illegally coordinate political strategies.
Thompson, the head of Ohio Values, recently gave a candid assessment of the allegation.
Citing “concerns about certain aspects of campaign finance law,” Thompson, interview He has been “putting a lot of information on the blog” and “hopes the campaign will see it”. In doing so, he said, the super PAC “takes on some of the roles traditionally played by campaigns.”
He also personally thanked Vance. “It’s also thanks to JD’s willingness to trust me,” Thompson said, adding, “It’s a professional trust that I’m very grateful for.”
Aaron Scherb of Common Cause, a government watchdog, observed that “sometimes people say the quiet parts out loud.”
“Super PACs are often seen as proxies for campaigns, but they don’t work with campaigns,” Scherb said.
“It’s illegal,” Notti said. “Both the Federal Election Commission or the Department of Justice should end the whole game and shut down super PACs operating as campaign agencies. There is no conceivable understanding that would allow super PACs to do so.”
Thompson seems to be different. He said in the interview that the current system has limits on direct campaign contributions, “rewards the extremely wealthy” and “encourages cheating.”
The restrictions, he said, give an unfair advantage to independently wealthy candidates, who can self-fund their campaigns, while upstarts and outsiders may struggle to cobble together budgets.
But, while this interpretation could theoretically carry water, that’s not the case in practice. Both Vance and Masters are wealthy investors with deep ties to the corporate and financial worlds. Five of the seven highest-earning SCSPs are backing economic candidates — Masters, Vance, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), former Republican Pennsylvania Senate candidate and hedge fund guru Dave McCormick, and McCormick’s Conqueror, Dr. Muhammad Oz.
“In this cycle, the participation of single-candidate super PACs is definitely disproportionate,” Scherb observed. “These groups tend to have only a few donors, and they often silence and drown out the voices of small donors and ordinary voters.”
Take Thiel’s old friend and disciple Masters, for example. Nearly all of his financial depth lies in Thiel-backed Save Arizona Super PAC.The organization has only 52 individual donors, and Thiel dominates, accounting for $15 million in donations from the organization $16.2 million in the receipt.
Most of the other contributors are from tech and financial executives, most of whom have some connection to the crypto community. Four of the 52 hailstorms came from Arizona. Groups supporting Vance were similarly distributed.
“From an anti-corruption perspective, it’s more about how many people are funding the super PAC,” Noti said. “If you have a funder who vouches for the campaign, any candidate who gets backed by that super PAC will owe that funder.” (Republican super-donor Richard Uihlein single-handedly funded a super PAC backing Eric Gretens, the disgraced Missouri governor, lost the primary on Tuesday.)
Sherb agreed. “These donors usually want something in return,” he said.
Thiel has Say He “no longer” believes that “liberty and democracy are compatible”. His super PAC brute force certainly aligns with campaign finance’s authoritarian views.
His two main bets –master and Vance – criticized as flirting with tyranny. and them quote Influenced by the “New Right” intellectual Curtis Yavin, he advocate A monarchical takeover in the United States.
Neither candidate has a diverse fundraising base and both are struggling to raise money. Vance’s campaign committee went bankrupt at the end of June, and Masters lent himself $200,000 more than he did from Arizona donors who gave him more money than his friends and business Partner Thiel lost $14.6 million.
“The dangers of swapping with these groups are definitely greater,” Scherb said. “At the very least it gives the impression of corruption, which can be just as damaging in many ways.”
“It was horrible,” Notti said. “The fact that a handful of wealthy people are dominating major campaigns in Congress is a huge red alert for our election. It has many complex reasons, but ultimately we have to address it. We have to find a way to Ways to enforce the rules to prevent any individual or company from simply dominating the entire campaign.”