Ron Paul may have an army of small donors but when it comes to billionaire sugar daddies, PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel is the financial stalwart of the campaign. According to campaign finance documents filed with the FEC on Monday, Thiel donated $1.7 million to Ron Paul-supporting super PAC Endorse Liberty in January, which amounted to over 70 percent of the $2.4 million it received for the month. Following donations of $150,000 and $750,000 donations made in December, the billionaire has given the PAC $2.6 million, accounting for 76 percent of its total fundraising.
That the Paul campaign, well-financed but not well-received by voters, would be bankrolled by Thiel makes perfect sense. Thiel, who is openly gay and Christian, has spent his considerable wealth on a number of mainstream and unorthodox causes including the Methuselah Foundation, a research organization that seeks to extend the human lifespan to 1,000 years; the Committee to Protect Journalists; gay-rights groups such as the American Foundation for Equal Rights and GOProud; the Seasteading Institute, an organization set on building small floating countries in the middle of the sea for a "vivid, wilde-eyed dream" of a Libertarian island; and the Thiel Fellowship, which give grants of $100,000 to people under the age of 20 who drop out of school to pursue entrepreneurial projects.
When Thiel took PayPal public in 2002, Thiel's stake was reportedly worth $55 million. He also happened to be an early Facebook investor. According to CNN Money, his stake in the site is now worth $1.3 billion.
So where does Thiel's money put him in the long scheme of Ron Paul fundraising? Without question, he's the king of Paul's super PAC fundraising. There are four super PACs registered to support Ron Paul and Endorse Liberty is by far the most powerful with more than $3.4 million in independent expenditures.. According to Open Secrets, the two closest Ron Paul super PACs have more than $300,000 and $120,000 by comparison.
Still, this is not to say Paul's candidacy isn't getting a major push from small donors. According to The Huffington Post, more than 52 percent of Paul's contributions come from small donors, which is more than any other Republican in the race and more than President Obama (who pulled at least 45 percent from small donors). According to Open Secrets, Thiel has not directly donated to Paul's campaign in 2012.
The question is, will Thiel continue to dump money into Paul's super PAC? Because, as CNN Money makes clear, the donations so far have barely made a dent. "$2.6 million in donations are no big deal -- only 0.2% of his Facebook holdings alone. That would be like a millionaire giving $2,000. Or a $200 donation for someone worth $100,000."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.