Despite the losing effort, Foster Friess says it was worth it.
Friess, a Republican multimillionaire from Wyoming, poured more than $2.5 million into the 2012 presidential race, most of it to the super PAC that backed Rick Santorum, the Red White and Blue Fund. He sat down with a small crowd of journalists this morning at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Washington, expressing few regrets.
Nowadays, Friess is working on nonpartisan charity work. His new initiative, Left Right Left Right Forward March!, he says, will focus on issues such as making adoption easier and lessening infant-mortality rates.
Fame crept up on him, Friess says, arriving only after he began dumping millions of dollars into the GOP presidential contest.
"Before Dec. 25," he said, "The people I owed money to knew me, and that was about it."
Friess' candidate, Santorum, didn't win, despite nearly $2.1 million of Friess' money funding the Red White and Blue Fund. Neither did Mitt Romney, despite the $100,000 Friess gave to the super PAC that supported him, Restore Our Future. Given such results, one might assume that Friess wishes he could have that money back.
Not so, he claims. Friendly and a bit stiff, with silver lone-star buttons poking through his light-denim shirt, Friess held court amid some of Washington's top money-in-politics reporters, explaining in a dim conference room at the St. Regis that all of it wasn't a mistake.
"I allowed Rick Santorum to express views and ideas that the American people never would have had expressed," the Wisconsin native said today, noting that he has received messages of support from Santorum backers who couldn't afford to spend that kind of cash. "Notes from people making 40, 50 thousand saying, 'I never could have supported his candidacy.'"
Not only that, Friess, 72, says he will support Santorum again if he runs in 2016.
"Yes," he said after a long-winded answer that included such earnest-sounding praise as, "On the national security front, Rick Santorum is superior to any candidate I know," and a boast that while in Congress, Santorum was "more ahead of his time than anyone."
For Friess, having millions of dollars is a civic good. It allows him, he says, to advocate for underrepresented political views and engage in charity work. "It's exciting to be in the competitive arena, but to think I'm a villain for having done that?" he asked, exasperatedly, talking with reporters about the role of super PACs and unfettered political money in the most recent election.
Despite bad results in the presidential race, Friess put a positive spin on 2012, arguing that down-ballot races show that Americans are trending toward the free-market principles he supports.
"The American people gave the Republican Party a mandate in this last election," Friess said, pointing to GOP wins in state legislative races. "Right now, the Republicans have their tail between their legs. I'm saying there's no reason to have their tail between their legs."
Friess pointed out that Republicans had taken single-party control of three state legislatures. Omitted from this discussion, however, was the fact that Democrats took over four, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The one thing Friess wished Republicans had done differently in 2012: "I would basically have had more [manpower] on the ground."
On that point, Friess and most of the political commentariat agree.