Billionaire Donors Like Peter Thiel Don’t Like the Culture War

By Joanna Button

What’s going on? Peter Thiel, a tech billionaire and top Republican donor, has reportedly told associates he won’t donate to any political candidates in 2024 because he dislikes the Republican Party’s focus on hot-button cultural issues like abortion and transgenderism. He believes Republicans should focus on issues like economic decline, competition with China, and stimulating U.S. innovation.

Thiel’s influence: Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, has a net worth of about $7 billion. He has donated about $50 million to Republican and libertarian political candidates since 2000. A self-proclaimed libertarian, he was the 9th-largest individual donor in the 2022 midterm elections.

His contributions: In 2016, Thiel backed Donald Trump, praising him for being honest about how “fake culture wars” distract the people from the country’s economic decline. He didn’t contribute to Trump’s 2020 campaign. In the 2022 midterms, he gave over $35 million to 16 Republican candidates, some of whom promoted culture war issues. His associates say he decided Republicans were too focused on social issues at the end of 2022.

Nuance: Despite stepping back from donations, Thiel continues to assert that Republicans need to "defeat the woke mind virus." But he cautions that an exclusive focus on cultural issues isn't sufficient and argues for more attention to America's economic challenges. Thiel has long been one of the few insider critics of Silicon Valley outsourcing technology to China.

Other billionaires: Mega donor Thomas Peterffy said he and many of his friends are reconsidering financing Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign due to his stances on “abortion and book banning.” Other Republican donors have voiced similar concerns, making it clear that many in the donor class, who have vast influence, aren’t as invested in cultural issues the same way the voters are.

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