Matt Lewis

Joe Ricketts (and 9 other conservative funders you should know)

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

Ever since liberal business magnate George Soros became a bogeyman for the right, it seems more and more conservative donors have found their names in print. Now, with the rise of Super PACs, the trend has been amplified.

The most recent example, of course, is billionaire Joe Ricketts, who found himself on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times when they reported he was considering backing a $10 million ad campaign, tying President Obama to the controversial statements of his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In any event, since they are becoming part of the political debate anyway, why not make it easy to find out who these top conservative donors are? While there are numerous big money contributors, here is a list of 10 donors you should know:

1. John Templeton – A retired surgeon, Templeton heads the John Templeton Foundation. According to the New York Times, “Templeton gave $250,000 to the pro-Santorum super PAC. He also gave $200,000 to Raising Red, a fund started by a former College Republican National Committee president and New York City Tea Party co-founder with the mission of attracting young people to defeating Obama. He is a long-time donor to Republican political groups and candidates.”

2. Foster Friess – An investor who grew up in Wisconsin, but now resides in Jackson, Wyoming, Friess recently became famous in political circles for supporting Rick Santorum’s Super PAC. According to his website, “In 1974, Foster and Lynn launched Friess Associates. The firm’s flagship, the Brandywine Fund, averaged 20 percent annual gains in the 1990s, causing Forbes magazine to name it one of the decade’s top mutual funds.” (Friess is also an investor in the Daily Caller.)

3. James Leininger – A physician living in San Antonio, Texas, Leninger is a major supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Leininger and his wife are noted philanthropists. He is a founder and the Chairman Emeritas of the free-market oriented Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Texas. According to his website, he holds a special interest in supporting school choice for underprivileged children.

4. Sheldon Adelson – The seventh wealthiest man in America, Adelson is a major player in the casino industry and was a significant backer of the Newt Gingrich campaign. As of March, he had contributed over $16 million dollars to Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC, “Winning our Future.” He and his wife Miriam, a physician, fund the Adelson Medical Research Foundation. Adelson is believed to prioritize Israeli and Jewish issues when supporting candidates.

5. Howard “Howie” Rich – A New York real estate developer, Rich actively supports libertarian causes. He serves on the board of directors of the Cato Institute and he founded Americans for Limited Government, a group that works on “identifying, exposing and working with Congress and state legislatures to prevent the continued expansion of government.”

6. Fred MalekMalek served as a civil servant during the Nixon and Ford administrations. He is a successful businessman, most notable for leading Marriot Hotels during their incredible growth experienced in the 1980s. He also served as President and Vice-Chairman of Northwest Airlines. Malek is a long-time player on the GOP’s national scene. He has served as the director of the 1988 Republican National Convention and was the Co-Chairman of John McCain’s 2008 Finance Committee.

7. Peter Thiel – Thiel’s foundation website describes him as “a technology entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist.” Thiel is a co-founder of PayPal and a major venture capitalist in the technology world. His most famous investment might be an early stake in Facebook. Thiel founded and runs the Thiel Foundation, which is a major supporter of libertarian causes such as the Seasteading Institute and the Human Rights Foundation.

8. Joe RickettsRicketts is the founder of TD Ameritrade and owner of the Chicago Cubs. His son, Pete, was the Republican Party’s nominee for Senate in Nebraska in 2006. Ricketts funds the Ending Spending political action committee, which recently made headlines by funding an advertising campaign in opposition to Jon Bruning and in favor of Deb Fischer in the Nebraska Senate race. Ricketts was a long-time member of the board of trustees for the American Enterprise Institute.

9. Bob Perry – A Houston area homebuilder, Perry is a champion of tort reform. Perry is also a major political donor in the state of Texas and is a founder of several 527 committees. The most famous was Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, which aired an advertising campaign against John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign. Perry is a supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

10. Koch BrothersCharles and David Koch run Koch Industries, one of the largest corporations in America. They are active philanthropists, notably in healthcare, education and the arts. The Kochs  have been unfavorably described by Frank Rich as “wolves of  [Rupert] Murdoch’s ingenuity and the Koch’s stealth.” They are major funders of libertarian and conservative organizations such as the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity.