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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / CAMPAIGN 2012

Santorum Donor in the Spotlight

Foster Friess's presence is a sign of the cozy relationship between the candidate and the moneyman.

Wyoming millionaire Foster Friess has contributed generously to the Super PAC backing Santorum, the Red, White, and Blue Fund.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

photo of Naureen Khan
February 10, 2012

Who was on hand to cheerfully introduce Rick Santorum before his address to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday?

Not a traditional surrogate like a family member or an elected official. Rather, it was Wyoming millionaire Foster Friess, who has contributed generously to the Super PAC backing Santorum, the Red, White, and Blue Fund.

Sporting a Santorum sweater vest, Friess peppered his brief remarks with jokes and delivered a ringing endorsement of Santorum’s candidacy while taking a swipe at rival Mitt Romney. “Life is so much fun and filled with humor,” Friess began, smiling widely. “There is a little bar a couple doors down, and, recently a conservative, a liberal, and moderate walked into the bar. The bartender says, 'Hi, Mitt.' " The crowd gave Friess a rousing round of applause.

 

Friess’s presence at Santorum’s side is another sign of the increasingly visible and cozy relationship between the candidate and one of his principal financial backers, a long-standing champion of Christian conservative causes. Despite the fact that super PACs and campaigns are forbidden from directly coordinating with one another, Friess has frequently appeared at Santorum’s side in the last few weeks, traveling aboard the campaign plane and standing at the candidate's elbow on the night he shocked the political world by sweeping contests in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado.

“He’s competitive, and he’s a fighter,” Friess said of Santorum, noting that he is the only blue-collar candidate in the race who will appeal to average Americans. “This is the combative spirit we’re going to need to win.”

Friess kept Santorum’s campaign afloat in the days before his victories in the early-nominating states made him a serious contender for the nomination. Federal Election Commission filings show that Friess gave the Red, White, and Blue Fund $331,000 in 2011, before Santorum’s surprise win in Iowa.  Friess has said that since then, he has contributed more, but he has declined to give specifics; he noted, however, that it was much less than the $10 million that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave to the super PAC backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. 

"I don't think I'm going to be needed,” Friess said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Thursday. “I can go back to the golf course, because the money is rolling in.”

Aides have said the two men are longtime friends, who discuss everything from politics to family.

Santorum began his own speech by saying he wouldn’t try to compete with Friess on the humor front. “Foster cornered the market on that,” Santorum said.

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