Peter Thiel has given nearly $1 million in support of an anti-LGBTQ+ candidate.
The gay billionaire has injected $850,000 into a super PAC funding the campaign of Kris Kobach, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Kansas, reports Recode, an arm of Vox.
The Republican primary is a tight race between Kobach and a crowded field of less extreme candidates, including Representative Roger Marshall, for the seat left open by Senator Pat Roberts, who is retiring. The GOP establishment is reportedly anxious about Kobach winning the primary.
A divisive figure in the Sunflower State, Kobach could be more likely to lose against a Democratic challenger this fall (and Kansas has not sent a Democrat to the Senate in nearly nine decades). The race would be déjà vu for Kobach, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race against Democrat Laura Kelly after narrowly winning the GOP primary with President Trump's backing. That race first tied Thiel to Kobach. At the time, the investor made secret donations to Kobach's gubernatorial bid that totaled between $250,000 and $500,000, reports Recode.
In this year's Senate race, Thiel is "absolutely critical to Kobach being a viable candidate," Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas, told Recode.
"I don’t want to overstate it and say that Kobach wouldn’t have a campaign without him. But I think the money that that super PAC is putting into the race — primarily through this one rich guy — is absolutely the lifeblood of the pro-Kobach campaign at this moment," he continued. "You take that money away and Kobach doesn’t have a lot of campaign left."
The Kansas GOP primary has been extremely negative, with a stream of attack ads delivered to voters through TV and mail. The super PAC funded by Thiel sent mailers making wildly anti-LGBTQ+ claims about Marshall, including that he voted to support "transgender plays" and "Rosie O'Donnell summer camp" as a member of Congress, reports Recode. One mailer claimed Kobach will "stop the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg."
The winner of the Tuesday primary in Kansas will vie against Democrat Barbara Bollier in the general election.
Kobach is celebrated in fringe conservative circles and reviled in mainstream ones for his extreme views on immigration and voting laws. He has advised the Trump administration to create a "Muslim registry" and, despite evidence to the contrary, believes in widespread voting fraud. As Kansas' Secretary of State, he established some of the nation's strictest voting laws.
Kobach also has a record of expressing anti-LGBTQ+ views. He has said that polygamy and drug use are comparable to marriage equality and that same-sex parents are “not good for kids,” and he accused the Human Rights Campaign of promoting pedophilia, according to GLAAD.
In July 2016, Thiel made history as the first out gay man to declare his identity at the Republican National Convention. Some heralded the speech as progress. But in reality, at the time, the GOP party platform at the time had never been more anti-LGBTQ+, with calls for a reversal of marriage equality, restricted bathroom access for trans people, and legalized "conversion" therapy, and religious-based discrimination.
In October 2016, Thiel gave $1.25 million to the Trump campaign, making him then the most prominent figure in Silicon Valley to support the Republican candidate. As Trump's reelection prospects dim daily in response to his failed response to the health epidemic, Thiel is investing in another powerful ally in Washington, D.C. He held a fundraiser for Kobach at his Manhattan penthouse last fall, Recode reported.
Thiel is a co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, a big data analytics company. Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.1 billion. Thiel is also no stranger to using his wealth to pull strings behind the scenes. After being outed by Gawker in 2007, Thiel helped bankrupt the media company almost a decade later by privately backing the lawsuit of Hulk Hogan.
His company Thiel Capital also once made headlines for expressing an interest in parabiosis, the process of injecting a younger person's blood into the body of an older one, ostensibly to keep the latter healthier.