Advisers and high-level supporters in Paul’s orbit have often cited Thiel’s presumed support as a counterpoint to those who question whether the prospective candidate can raise enough money to sustain a serious presidential campaign. Last year, when a New York Times story described Paul’s political and fundraising infrastructure as feeble and unimpressive, his advisers fired back by giving the Washington Post an exclusive on its 50-state political network. The Post story described Thiel as a “looming figure in Paul’s constellation of friends, advisers, and possible bundlers,” and “one of his top West Coast allies.”
Less well known, however, is Thiel’s longtime support for Cruz, who announced his presidential candidacy this week. In 2009, Thiel contributed $251,000 to support the star litigator’s bid for Texas attorney general. Cruz eventually aborted the campaign, but the billionaire’s donations made up one-fifth of his entire campaign war chest. When he then ran for Senate in 2012, Thiel plowed $1 million into Club for Growth, the conservative pressure group that heavily funded Cruz’s primary bid.
Asked about Cruz last September, Thiel told The Daily Caller, “Well I think he’s very smart. I think one of the challenges we have in the Republican Party is… our representatives, our senators, are somewhat lower IQ than the people on the other side. So, I think there is something to be said for getting some really smart people in there.”
Thiel’s financial support would be a much-needed boon to Cruz, whose strident anti-establishment persona and high-profile role in the 2013 government shutdown has alienated much of the GOP’s donor class.