J.D. Vance has won the Ohio Republican Senate primary race to become the GOP standard-bearer, beating out other far-right candidates after earning former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.
And the extra $15 million provided by gay billionaire Peter Thiel made sure he was going to win.
Thiel has a history of bankrolling men he thinks will serve his interests. After being outed by Gawker, Thiel more or less paid for Hulk Hogan to sue the outlet over a story. Thiel’s deep pockets bankrupted the company as it tried to fight back against the lawsuit. It was his revenge for being forced to admit that he was gay after refusing to do so for years.
But with Thiel buying into politics, he’s hoping to change the game even further in his favor.
Thiel was an avid supporter of Trump’s, going as far as to speak at the Republican National Convention as a token gay and billionaire supporter. While he previously seemed ashamed of being gay, as evidenced by his vindictive funding of Hogan’s lawsuit, he was content to be out when it was useful to his purposes of building up bona fides in the political arena.
Thiel helped bankroll Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 when most other would-be donors found Trump too repulsive for their taste.
Trump was notoriously opposed to transgender rights, using the trans community as a punching bag during his time in office, and Thiel didn’t care. In fact, Vance, the Hillbilly Elegy author, has frequently spouted transphobic rhetoric.
Thiel’s first $3.5 million donation came just after Vance won Donald Trump’s endorsement after a long effort to suck up to Trump at every possible turn. Vance had a lot to overcome on that front. During Trump’s first presidential campaign, he made it clear he was no fan of the president, going so far as to compare him to Adolf Hitler.
Now Vance has been doing his best to emulate the man. He’s called for seizing the assets of nonprofits that he thinks are too woke and firing public servants, to be replaced by Trump lackeys.
But Thiel’s donation was hardly dependent on the former president’s blessing. Vance is a protégé of Thiel, having served as a principal at Thiel’s venture capital firm. (Vance doesn’t talk much about that, given the working class image he is trying to cultivate in spite of his elite, Ivy League background.)
Moreover, Thiel was reported to have lobbied hard for Trump to endorse Vance. Indeed, Thiel already sank $10 million last year into Protect Ohio Values, the PAC backing Vance. The donation is part of an effort on Thiel’s part to play an outsized role in this year’s midterm elections. Thiel dumped another $1.5 million into the race shortly before the election.
Thiel’s super PAC basically ran Vance’s campaign for him. The other candidates ran typical campaigns that simply couldn’t match the firepower Thiel was able to provide with unlimited cash. Vance didn’t need to raise money from donors. He’d already been paid for in full.
And while the other candidates dutifully trekked to Florida hoping to earn Trump’s endorsement, it was Thiel that carried home the prize after relentlessly wooing the former president and playing to his vanity and obsession with people’s looks.
When Trump endorsed Vance finally, spurning other MAGA believers for a former detractor, he made it clear that it was Vance’s looks that earned him the thumbs up.
Vance, he said, is a “handsome son of a bitch.”
Good looks and big money. Vance has one. Thiel has the other. Together, they put a deposit down on a Senate seat.