Foster Friess, the wealthy and often eccentric investor who is running to be the next governor of Wyoming, scored the endorsement of President Donald Trump Tuesday morning as voters in the state head to the polls in the state, and in the midst of a competitive and costly Republican primary.
But long before Tuesday morning's Twitter endorsement from Trump, Friess was well-known across Republican circles as one of the most prolific and important donors to GOP candidates and conservative causes in the United States. Friess was also a donor to then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 presidential camapaign, and gave the maximum donation to Trump of $5,400 in both the primary and general election according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Locked in a competitive Republican race to win the gubernatorial nomination in Wyoming, the tweet from Trump is no doubt welcome in a state that president won by more than 40 points in the 2016 presidential election. Friess' main competition in the primary includes Wyoming State Treasurer Mark Gordon, businessman Sam Galeotos and Harriet Hageman.
In an e-mail blast following the president's endorsement, Friess said he was "honored to have the full support of President Trump."
"A President who's ended the War on Coal. A President who's fighting to put America First. A President who's not afraid to fight for our values," wrote Friess, who also has the support of another Tea Party favorite, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul.
But despite the last minute boost, Friess' decision to run for political office has been met with criticism from some that he is simply attempting to "buy" an election. At a recent debate, Hageman attacked Friess as a "part-time Jackson jet-setter," and declared that "Wyoming is not for sale," according to the Casper Star-Tribune.
While Friess has disputed the characterization, he has spent over $1 million blanketing the Wyoming television ads touting himself as a common-sense, fiscally responsible businessman with deep roots in the state.
"Wyoming has smiled on me and my family," Friess says in one of his campaign ads, "Now I'm running for governor to make sure Wyoming stays the land of dreams for the next generation."
As a way to distinguish himself in the race, Friess has pledged to serve only one term as governor and would donate his salary to a charity of Wyoming voters' choice, according to his assistant Bailey Shelbourne.
But Freiss' reputation as a political force with major influence within the party is something he has honed and earned dating back to the early 1990's.
In 2012, it was Friess that donated $2.5 million to the Red, White & Blue Fund, a super PAC supporting former Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Rick Santorum's ultimately unsuccessful presidential bid. Friess support for Santorum stemmed largely from the former senator's conservative positions on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
It was those views that landed Friess in hot water for a cringe-worthy comment he made to MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell back in 2012. When asked about Rick Santorum's focus on social issues like access to contraception, Friess told Mitchell: "This contraceptive thing, my gosh it's such inexpensive – back in my days they'd use Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives, the gals put it between their knees, and it wasn't that costly.”
Friess later apologized for the comment, writing in a blog post: "My aspirin joke bombed as many didn’t recognize it as a joke but thought it was my prescription for today’s birth control practices.”
That role of Republican power-broker is one Friess maintains to this day. According to OpenSecrets the 78 year-old former investment manager, whose net worth was in 2012 rumored to be upwards of $530 million according to the Wall Street Journal, has donated more than $75,000 to Republican candidates and GOP-affiliated groups in 2018 alone.
The results of Tuesday's primary could help determine whether Friess has effectively made the leap from donor to politician.