Rick Santorum Benefactor Says If Help Is Needed He Will Be There

Feb 15, 2012 6:00am

BOISE, Idaho — With his candidate of choice riding high in the polls, Rick Santorum’s wealthy benefactor Foster Friess laughed off the suggestion that he’s buying the election for the former Pennsylvania senator, but Friess, the main donor to the pro-Santorum super PAC told ABC News he is absolutely committed to helping Santorum through Super Tuesday and all the way through the Republican National Convention in August.

However, the always colorful Friess acknowledged that because of increased fundraising by the campaign since Santorum’s surprise trifecta win in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado last week his help isn’t needed as much.

“The wonderful news is they don’t really need me,” Friess said on the phone from where he lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “They raised $3 million in three days (for the campaign.) There was an $800,000 day for the super PAC, so my resources — they are in the back corner waiting if they are needed, but it doesn’t look like they need.”

He added there is another high-dollar donor to the super PAC who recently gave a million dollars to the effort.

When asked if he sees himself committing the kind of money other super PAC donors have given in support of candidates, such as the $10 million casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave to Newt Gingrich’s super PAC, Friess said he will “play as we go along.”

“There’s no sense in committing a lot of money if it’s not needed,” Friess said. “If money is needed I want to be helpful. That’s what I’ll say, but I won’t say to what extent.”

And Friess pointed out that the pro-Santorum super PAC — The Red, White, and Blue Fund — has only spent a fraction of what the pro-Romney superPAC Restore Our Future has spent.

Per their FEC filings, the pro-Romney effort Restore Our Future has spend $14.5 million while the pro-Santorum Red, White, and Blue Fund, which was launched much later  than Romney’s, has spent $1.5million.

“I get hammered, ‘Why should a wealthy person influence elections?’” Friess said. “Kind of an interesting question: Money isn’t always at the bottom of everything, but it sure helps.”

When asked what he thought Santorum should do in Romney’s home state of Michigan — the campaign launched two new television ads there Tuesday and Santorum will campaign there Thursday — he said political strategy is “above my pay grade.”

“Let those guys in the campaign deal with that. I just try to be encouraging,” Friess said.

Friess is due to begin an around-the-world vacation with his wife Lynn, who although he jokes that she tries to curb his campaign spending says she’s “impressed by Rick” and “saddened the country has turned into a banana republic.”

He was supposed to be headed to Peru first, but the Red, White, and Blue Fund is having a fundraiser in Dallas on Feb. 23 and Santorum is slated to address it (Romney also addresses his super PAC fundraisers) and Friess wants to make sure to attend. He will catch up with the three-week trip, which makes stops at the Taj Mahal in India and the Terracotta Warriors in China, among other world treasures.

He insists his support of Santorum won’t take a vacation, though, he will have his world phone on him.

The Red, White, and Blue Fund (Friess does not run, it just donates), tells ABC News they are currently coming out of the field with survey research in multiple states that will inform their decisions on what messages will play and where they will be most active.

They said financial resources will dictate how many states they are playing in, but — unlike the Santorum campaign — they did not launch any ads in Mitt Romney’s home state of Michigan or in any states Tuesday.

They did say they are interested in possibly advertising in Michigan and Arizona, which vote on Feb. 28, and “at least half of the Super Tuesday states,” but acknowledged “Vermont, Massachusetts, and Virginia are obviously off the table.” Santorum, as well as Newt Gingrich, is not on the ballot in that state although both live there.  They did not get enough signatures to make the ballot requirement; Mitt Romney and Ron Paul did.

Friess made his money as a mutual fund manager, but stressed he’s not a billionaire, merely a very successful millionaire. He’s not only the super PAC’s main donor, he’s been friends with Santorum for 20 years, giving to his previous campaigns, including his 18 point loss to Bob Casey in 2006. He’s often by Santorum’s side on the campaign trail with his signature grin and cowboy hat. He proudly stood behind Santorum when the former Pennsylvania senator scored his trifecta victories last week.

“I’m a millionaire, I’m not a billionaire, maybe $10 million is not a big deal if you are worth $20 billion, but what kind of sacrifice is a million dollars when you have kids strapping a gun to their back in Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said. “That’s what commitment is: I’m nowhere in that league.”

ABC News’ Elizabeth Hartfield contributed to this report.

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