Features

Tightrope walker

"Tightrope walker" Continued...

Issue: "2012 Cities Issue," March 10, 2012

The ad, called "Rombo" and which also aired in Michigan, ends when a mud blast lands on the Romney actor's white dress shirt. Then Santorum gives the familiar line: "I approve this message."

The Friess factor

Hedge fund manager and Christian philanthropist Foster Friess puts big money behind Santorum

By Warren Cole Smith

Photo by Ron Sachs/DPA/Landov

"I can't tell you how thrilled I am, how much fun I'm having," said Foster Friess. And why shouldn't he? Friess, his money, and his evangelical friends have helped to propel Santorum from also-ran to frontrunner in the last 90 days.

Since December, Friess, 71, has made four donations totaling $1 million to the Red, White and Blue Fund, a pro-Santorum super PAC. The fund raised $2 million in January, according to recent disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission. That's more than double what the political action committee took in during all of 2011.

Friess is not Santorum's only top donor: William Dore, president of Louisiana-based Dore Energy Corp., also has given $1 million to the Red, White and Blue Fund. Overall, the super PAC has directed more than $3.4 in expenditures toward promoting Santorum.

Friess made his money managing other people's money. Friess Associates began in 1974 and, like Santorum's campaign, got off to a slow start. But his flagship product, the Brandywine Fund, was a top performer in the 1990s. Friess Associates gained more than $15 billion in assets. He sold 51 percent interest in the firm to investors in 2001 for $247 million. Friess says he is a "billionaire wanna-be." Wealth-X, a research firm, says his net worth is $530 million.

A Christian since 1978, Friess has been a long-time supporter of conservative and Christian causes. His charity of choice is Water Missions International, a South Carolina-based relief organization that provides engineering for clean water in underdeveloped countries. He donated and raised millions for disaster relief following Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indonesian earthquake, and the 2010 Haitian earthquake. He's outspoken about his Christian faith and his philanthropy. "In the past two years," he said, "I've paid more than my total income in taxes and philanthropy."

Friess reportedly spent $3 million on Tucker Carlson's conservative website, The Daily Caller, and he's given at least $1 million to various Tea Party groups.

Friess typically gives his money in the form of challenge grants, using a robust rolodex to leverage his personal donations. But a freewheeling style sometimes gets him-and those he supports-in trouble. During the controversy over Obama's contraception mandate, Friess said, "In my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly." He later apologized, saying the comment was a "joke that bombed."

Friess, who gave $250,000 to a political action committee that backed Santorum's failed Senate campaign in 2006, hasn't ruled out supporting others if Santorum leaves the race. But Friess thinks Santorum is in to stay: "Newt is a visionary. Romney is a manager. Paul is an ideologue. Rick Santorum is a servant," he said. "I believe people are looking for someone who wants to serve." - with reporting by Edward Lee Pitts

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee is WORLD's Washington Bureau chief. As a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, he was embedded with a National Guard unit in Iraq. He also once worked in the press office of Sen. Lamar Alexander.

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