The U.S. Senate’s most outspoken contrarian, Ted Cruz, became the first official 2016 candidate to launch a bid for the White House Monday. Despite the fact that he’s highly controversial within his own party, it has long been known that Ted Cruz is bankrolled by politically active libertarians who like his brand of politics.
Paypal co-founder, Facebook investor, and self-styled libertarian Peter Thiel gave roughly $10,000 to Ted Cruz’s senate bid back in 2011. However, it’s his indirect contributions that really hit the mark.
Thiel has shelled out an estimated $2M to an arm of the libertarian political action group, Club for Growth. The Club for Growth network, according to the database of watchdog group The Center for Responsive Politics, was Cruz’s largest single donor ($700,000).
It should be no surprise that California is Cruz’s largest donor state outside of his native Texas.
Even within libertarian circles, Cruz is a special case. Many Tea Party favorites, such as Cruz, typically get a large portion of their contributions from an army small donors (<$200). Rand Paul, for instance, raised 43% of his individual contributions from small donors. However, only 16% of Cruz’s total war chest is small donors.
Fully 58 percent ($10M) of his individual contributions are from large check writers, and another $1.6M came from political action committees.
To be sure, it would be misleading to believe that Silicon Valley’s biggest conservative backers are staunch conservatives. They seem more about breaking down traditional government institutions than propping up any one ideology.
For instance, former Facebook employee Chamath Palihapitiya gave a sizable $5,000 to Cruz but also donated to the Democratic upstart Ro Khanna, who tried to overtake long-time Silicon Valley House Representative Mike Honda.
Likewise, Thiel gave to Khanna and also to the Mayday PAC, an organization dedicated to aggressive campaign finance reform.
“I’m not dogmatic about government having to have a small role, but it depends on how well the government works,” Thiel once told me. He said he’ll happily fund both Democrats or Republicans—he just wants institutions that are effective.
Sometimes propping up effective institutions means breaking the old ones down. Cruz, more than most politicians, represents a disruptive force.
Disruption tends to be what Silicon Valley libertarians like. And, we should expect more of Ted Cruz-like contrarian politics as these technologists become more powerful.