Peter Thiel Pours $10 Million into Super PAC Backing Likely J.D. Vance Senate Bid in Ohio

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Billionaire tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel has contributed $10 million to a super PAC supporting a likely Republican bid for the U.S. Senate bid in Ohio by investor and Hillbilly Elegy memoir author J.D. Vance.

The Hill reports:

The super PAC Protect Ohio Values, which describes itself as a “network of grassroots conservatives” encouraging Vance’s candidacy, also received a “significant” donation from the conservative mega-donor Mercer family, Bryan Lanza, a communications adviser to the PAC, told The Hill, though did not say how much the Mercer’s donation was worth.

The development was first reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer on Monday morning.

Vance, 36, rose to prominence after Hillbilly Elegy, which detailed his impoverished childhood in Ohio, became a New York Times best-seller, and later was made into a film by Netflix directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard.

Last year, Vance raised $93 million to launch Narya Capital, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based investment fund focused on supporting companies outside of Silicon Valley. Vance has also gained fame as a paid conservative commentator for CNN and regular contributor to the Times opinion section.

In a February interview with Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson, Vance warned that diversity training shaped by critical race theory is “destroying our society.”

“One of the great things that’s happened to me, I think the greatest thing in my life, is that I married a woman who wasn’t the same skin color as me,” the author told Carlson. “I was able to do that because I grew up in a country that taught us not to think about each other as members of a racial group. We were taught to think about each other as people.”

“What these people are doing by constantly forcing us to focus on the color of our skin, is they’re destroying an essential part of American heritage …,” he added. “They’re doing it, I think, for cynical reasons, but at the end of the day, they’re going to destroy something that’s critical and important and good about this country and we should fight back against it.”

If Vance were to run, he would seek to replace Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who announced in January that he would not seek re-election in 2022.

“This is a tough time to be in public service,” Portman said in a statement at the time. “I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision.”

Vance would likely face a crowded Republican primary field, which already includes former Ohio Republican Party chairwoman Jane Timken and former state Treasurer Josh Mandel. Mike Gibbons, a Cleveland businessman who lost a bid for GOP Senate nomination in 2018, is reportedly also mulling a run.

The Democrat primary field may grow to include several candidates, with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Ohio state House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, and former state Treasurer Kevin Boyce all considering possible bids.

Vance is an Iraq War veteran, Yale Law School graduate, and was a principal at Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management. He also previously worked for Ohio state Sen. Bob Schuler (R).

In 2018, Vance weighed mounting a bid to unseat progressive Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), but ultimately opted against the move.

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