Foster Friess, a GOP megadonor who has given tens of millions of dollars to an organization that funds fake clinics and anti-choice organizations, announced his run for governor of Wyoming over the weekend.
Speaking at the state’s Republican Party delegate luncheon, Friess vowed to serve just a single term “to donate my salary to charities that the people in Wyoming pick,” Politico reported.
When it comes to his favored choice of charities, Friess has sunk some of his fortune into conservative and religious causes through the Lynn & Foster Friess Family Foundation. One of the largest beneficiaries of the foundation is the National Christian Foundation, which directs donations to “Christian” organizations.
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Among the favored causes of the National Christian Foundation are fake clinics, often referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers.” As Inside Philanthropy uncovered in a 2015 report, the organization gives to “literally hundreds of crisis pregnancy centers, geographically scattered throughout the United States.” Other notable grantees include anti-choice litigation mill Alliance Defending Freedom, American Family Association, Americans United for Life, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family.
The National Christian Foundation (NCF) is “among the largest donor-advised funds in the country, the NCF earns investors more tax-breaks than they’d get from private foundations, and ensures a level of anonymity to individuals who might not want their names directly associated with some of the NCF’s more controversial beneficiaries,” according to Inside Philanthropy.
The nonprofit received $47.6 million between 2005 and 2013 from the Friess’ foundation, according to a Rewire.News review of the Conservative Transparency database. A review of the Friess Family Foundation’s more recent tax returns show it gave another $2.5 million to the National Christian Foundation in 2016, $3 million in 2015, and $3.5 million in 2014.
Friess is perhaps best known for his notorious 2012 comments falsely suggesting that contraception is affordable. Appearing on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports, Friess claimed that “on this contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s [so] inexpensive … You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
When Andrea Mitchell asked about suggestions from former Sen. Rick Santorum that women should not use birth control, Friess was dismissive. “Who cares?” he said. “Do you honestly think that if Sen. Santorum becomes president, we’re going to get rid of contraceptives?”
The comments made national headlines and ignited harsh dissent from reproductive health and rights advocates. Friess backtracked, claiming his comments were a “joke.” The following year during an event with the Christian Science Monitor, Friess said that “contraception’s been very, very good to me,” pointing to how it allowed his family to space the births of their children. He dismissed the Republican “war on women” as “bald-faced demagoguery,” though the GOP has worked tirelessly to roll back access to contraception.
Friess during the 2012 presidential election was a lead sponsor of a super PAC supporting the stringently anti-choice former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in his bid for the White House. Santorum made a name for himself with his extreme platform that included ending legal abortion. Friess has suggested he approved of Santorum’s positions on abortion rights.
Friess spent at least $2.6 million investing in super PACs in the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Public Integrity, $2.1 million of which went to the pro-Santorum Red, White, and Blue super PAC. According to BuzzFeed News, Friess “has given at least $3.4 million in disclosed federal contributions since the 2012 election cycle.”
Friess had mulled a run for the U.S. Senate, having confirmed to the Casper Star-Tribune in November that he was weighing a primary challenge to GOP Sen. John Barrasso. He said at the time that he had been encouraged to run by Trump-ally Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who ran white nationalist site Breitbart.com, though Friess later criticized the conservative media figure’s tactics.
The filing deadline for Wyoming’s gubernatorial race is June 1, and its primary will take place on August 21. The state’s governor, Republican Matt Mead, is term limited.