The wine flowed. Donald Trump Jr. mingled with the guests. And Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire and host of the event, had a message for the well-heeled crowd: It was time to clean house.
The fund-raiser at Mr. Thiel’s Miami Beach compound last month was for a conservative candidate challenging Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming for a spot on the ballot in November’s midterm elections. Ms. Cheney, one of several Republicans who had voted to impeach President Donald J. Trump on charges of inciting the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, was the face of “the traitorous 10,” Mr. Thiel said, according to two people with knowledge of the event, who were not authorized to speak publicly. All of them had to be replaced, he declared, by conservatives loyal to the former president.
Mr. Thiel, who became known in 2016 as one of the biggest donors to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, has re-emerged as a key financier of the Make America Great Again movement. After sitting out the 2020 presidential race, the venture capitalist this year is backing 16 Senate and House candidates, many of whom have embraced the lie that Mr. Trump won the election.
To get these candidates into office, Mr. Thiel has given more than $20.4 million. That essentially puts him and Kenneth Griffin, the chief executive of the hedge fund Citadel, in a tie as the largest individual donors to Republican politics this election cycle, according to the nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets.
What sets Mr. Thiel’s spending apart, though, is its focus on hard-right candidates who traffic in the conspiracy theories espoused by Mr. Trump and who cast themselves as rebels determined to overthrow the Republican establishment and even the broader American political order. These campaigns have raised millions in small-dollar donations, but Mr. Thiel’s wealth could accelerate the shift of views once considered fringe to the mainstream — while making himself a new power broker on the right. [Continue reading…]