A Short History of Millionaire Sugar Daddies in Presidential Politics

From the man who made McKinley to the Man Atop the Horse, eight men who kept candidates supplied with cash.

If Rick Santorum is still in the presidential hunt by the end of March, he'll have two men to thank: Mitt Romney, for being a weak enough front-runner to give him an opening, and Foster Friess, for bankrolling the push. Friess is a Wyoming investor and longtime donor to conservative causes, including Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller. But the limelight has only fallen on the Wyoming investor since he became Santorum's political sugar daddy.

It's actually not clear how much money Friess has given to the Republican former senator from Pennsylvania. (It also appears that, contrary to what you might read, Friess isn't quite a billionaire -- although he is a multi-hundred-millionaire at the least.) In backing Santorum, he follows Sheldon Adelson -- the billoinaire casino magnate who has kept Newt Gingrich's momentum from completely burning out -- in the role of the media's favorite somewhat inscrutable bankroller of politicians. It's conventional to say that the sudden prominence of figures like Adelson and Friess is a product of the Citizens United decision, but while it's true that laws governing donations have changed recently, the presence of political sugar daddies is hardly new. Here are a few of their antecedents.

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David A. Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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