Uh oh: Santorum's billionaire sugar daddy has Wisconsin ties and loves Scott Walker | WisCommunity

Uh oh: Santorum's billionaire sugar daddy has Wisconsin ties and loves Scott Walker


The Koch brothers have gotten more than their share of attention in Wisconsin during the past year of turmoil, but there's another billionaire, with Wisconsin ties, who also loves Scott Walker and is quite capable of investing heavily in keeping Walker in the governor's office.  He gave Walker $100,000 on Nov. 16, the first day the limit on donations was off for the recall. But that could be just the down payment.

He's Foster Friess, Rick Santorum's sugar daddy, who has contributed more than $1-million to the Red, White and Blue super PAC keeping Santorum's campaign alive. Friess is also the guy who recently suggested women put an aspirin between their knees as a birth control method.

My interest was piqued by a New Yorker magazine story on super PACs this week, identifying Friess as a Wisconsin businessman.

It turns out he's a Rice Lake native who graduated from UW-Madison, but he's been gone from the state for decades and is based in Jackson, Wyoming, where he has made quite a splash as a political donor to conservative causes and candidates, and as a philanthropist.

He's a colorful character who dresses like a cowboy and is pictured on a horse on his website. He calls himself "the underdog billionaire" because he "only" is worth one billion while others count their billions in double digits.

includes this biographical info:

At the University of Wisconsin, Foster earned a degree in business administration, served as president of his fraternity, was named one of the “ten most outstanding senior men,” and won the heart of “Badger Beauty” and Chi Omega president Lynnette Estes, whom he married in 1962...

In 1974, Foster and Lynn launched Friess Associates. The firm’s flagship, the Brandywine Fund, averaged 20 percent annual gains in the 1990s, causing Forbes magazine to name it one of the decade’s top mutual funds. Business Week heralded him as the “longest surviving successful growth stock picker” and CNBC’s Ron Insana dubbed him one of the “century’s great investors.”

a Wyoming website, offers more in a profile on his 70th birthday in 2010:

Friess moved his investment business to Jackson nearly two decades ago, and in 2001 sold a majority stake in the company for $251 million.

In addition to their home in Jackson, the Friesses own a 300-acre ranch on the South Fork of the Shoshone River, near Cody, and a home in Scottsdale, Ariz...

Friess gives to conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute [where Walker gave a speech in January], and to education groups that advocate for school voucher programs, including the Alliance for School Choice [An organization that should be familiar to Wisconsinites, since it employs both Scott Jensen and Susan Mitchell]. In the near future, Friess expects to make grants to advocate for the FairTax — which would replace the current federal system of taxation with a tax on retail sales.

...Friess is also candid about his primary reason for moving to Jackson Hole: it was the prettiest U.S-based tax haven he could find.

“We decided to move to Jackson to avoid the increasingly onerous taxes we were paying in Pennsylvania and Delaware,” he said.

For most people, taxes are a drag because they reduce income. But Foster Friess, a generous supporter of Republican political candidates, had another motivation: He detests government involvement in just about everything.

on Friess's website lionize Scott Walker. His first donation of $4,600 to Walker came in October 2010, with $100,000 last November, when the recall began. Friess and his wife both write checks to dozens of Republican candidates, and in the past have given $2,400 each to Ron Johnson for Senate in 2010, $2,000 each to Tim Michels for Senate in 2004, and $1,000 each to Mark Neumann for Senate in 1998. Lynette also gave Mark Green $1,000 for his 1998 House race.

Federal Elections Commission records also show that the Friesses, despite their love for Santorum, each gave Mitt Romney $2,300 in 2007, and that Foster Friess gave $2,500 to Newt Gingrich in June 2011. The Romney check is interesting because it was Friess who introduced Santorum at a recent meeting of CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, recently with this joke: "A conservative, a moderate and a liberal walk into a bar. The bartender says, 'Hi, Mitt.'"

Their checkbook is always open, it appears. Don't be surprised if the underdog billionaire joins the Koch brothers in a major investment in the "independent" media campaign trying to help Walker keep his job.


March 8, 2012 - 12:20pm