Billionaire donors helped Ted Cruz rise in Republican presidential bid

WASHINGTON - Four of America's wealthiest businessmen laid the foundation for Ted Cruz's now-surging Republican presidential campaign and have redefined the role of political donors.

See Full Article

With just over a week until voters get their first say, the 45-year-old Texas senator known as a conservative warrior has been ascendant. The $36 million committed last year by these donor families is now going toward broadcast and online advertisements, direct mailings and get-out-the-vote efforts in early primary states.

The donors' super political action committees sponsored two weekend rallies in Iowa featuring Cruz and conservative personality Glenn Beck. The state holds the leadoff caucuses on Feb. 1.

The long-believing benefactors are New York hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, Texas natural gas billionaires Farris and Dan Wilks, and private-equity partner Toby Neugebauer. They honed their plan to help Cruz before he began his steady rise in polls - before he even announced his presidential bid in March.

"No one wants to lose," Neugebauer told The Associated Press when asked why he and others bet big on Cruz. "We didn't miss that an outsider would win. I think we've nailed it."

The groundwork laid by Neugebauer and other major donors began roughly two years ago, first in a casual conversation with Cruz at a donor's home in Palm Beach, Florida, then in a more formal way over the 2014 Labor Day weekend at Neugebauer's ranch in East Texas.

That October, big-data firm Cambridge Analytica - in which Mercer is an investor - began working to identify potential Cruz voters and develop messages that would motivate them. Alexander Nix, the company's chief executive officer, said the importance of this early work cannot be overstated. He credits Cruz for understanding this.

"Money never buys you time," Nix said, drawing from his experiences with campaigns worldwide. "Too often clients will come to you just before an election and expect you to work miracles. But you cannot roll back the clock."

Key donors soon came up with a novel arrangement: Each family would control its own super PAC, but the groups would work together as a single entity called Keep the Promise. They keep in touch through weekly strategy phone calls.

That's not how super PACs usually work. More typically, multiple donors turn over their money and leave the political decisions to professional strategists. For example, Jeb Bush's super PAC counts more than two dozen million-dollar donors.

For Cruz, the pool of really big donors is far more concentrated: Mercer gave $11 million, Neugebauer gave $10 million, and the Wilks brothers and their wives together gave $15 million.

That level of support has opened Cruz to criticism that donors are influencing his policies, whether on abortion, energy or the gold standard.

Ethanol advocates point to his oil and gas donors as the reason he wants to discontinue that government subsidy for the corn-based fuel. Cruz and the donors have dismissed that as nonsense. His campaign cites as evidence Cruz's desire to end handouts to all parts of the energy industry.

Neugebauer, whose private equity investment firm has investments in shale, moved to Puerto Rico in 2014. He said he relocated for his children's education, but there are tax breaks as well.

Mercer is a former computer programmer and co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, one of the country's largest hedge funds. The Wilks brothers are relative newcomers to the world of political donations, having made billions in 2011 by selling their company, which manufactures equipment for the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas.

Although these donors set aside their millions for Cruz 10 months ago, it's only now that the money is making its way to the 2016 race in a major way.

Since mid-December, the Keep the Promise super PACs have documented about $4 million in independent expenditures to help Cruz or attack other candidates - most often Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, federal election records show.

The super PACs have been identifying and connecting with Cruz voters through digital ads and door-knocking, and recently began a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign. A Keep the Promise van tailed the Cruz campaign bus as it made its way through Iowa last week. Super PAC workers handed out thousands of "Choose Cruz" yard signs.

For the biggest donors, it's no surprise that Cruz seems to be well-positioned heading into the primaries. In mid-July, Keep the Promise posted on its website a slide-show presentation called "Can He Win?" The document predicted it would be "very difficult for Establishment to destroy the conservative challenger."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • United Methodist Church chides Sessions over border policy

    World News CTV News
    House GOP gets little direction from Trump on immigration United Methodist Church chides Sessions over border policy Youngest child migrants held in 'tender age' shelters in Texas Source
  • Navy submarine set to return to Halifax after five-month deployment

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The Royal Canadian Navy submarine HMCS Windsor is expected to return to Halifax today after completing a five-month deployment in the Euro-Atlantic region. The Victoria-class submarine was on patrol as part of Operation Projection, conducting training exercises with navies and other international security partners. Source
  • Palace says Prince Louis to be christened July 9

    World News CTV News
    LONDON - Britain's royal palace says Prince Louis will be christened July 9 by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The third son of Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge was born April 23 and is fifth in line to the throne. Source
  • Indonesia ferry deaths rise to more than 190 as survivors report severe overcrowding

    World News CBC News
    Distraught relatives slammed Indonesia's government for not enforcing basic safety measures on passenger boats and pleaded Wednesday for a bigger search effort for more than 190 people presumed drowned after a ferry sank on a picturesque Sumatran lake earlier this week. Source
  • Pope criticizes Trump administration policy on migrant family separation

    World News CBC News
    Pope Francis has criticized the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border, saying populism is not the answer to the world's immigration problems. Speaking to Reuters, the Pope said he supported recent statements by U.S. Catholic bishops who called the separation of children from their parents "contrary to our Catholic values" and "immoral. Source
  • Two men in hospital with head injuries after alleged assault with baseball bats

    Canada News CTV News
    HALTON HILLS, Ont. - Police say two men are in hospital with serious head injuries after their car was surrounded and they were allegedly beaten with baseball bats early Wednesday morning. Halton Regional Police say the incident happened on the border between Halton and Peel regions, where three men were in a car that was surrounded by several "suspect vehicles. Source
  • Aurora Cannabis to spin out U.S. assets into separate company

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada's second largest cannabis company plans to place its U.S. assets into a new separate company that will focus on investing in the cannabis and real estate sector there. TSX-listed Aurora Cannabis said Wednesday it plans to distribute units of its subsidiary Australis Capital Inc. Source
  • Mandalay Bay hotel in Vegas floods after water main break

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- A water main broke Tuesday flooding a convention centre in the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that the break dumped water onto the first floor of the convention area, and about a thousand people on the second floor had to be relocated. Source
  • Many in Puerto Rico still under tarps as storm threat looms

    World News CTV News
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Hurricane Maria ripped away part of the steel roof from Carmen Lidia Torres Mercado's home in the Puerto Rican capital. Nine months later, she is still relying on a blue plastic tarp to protect her home, even with a new storm season already two weeks old. Source
  • Ont. police lay nearly 700 charges against truckers during 24-hour blitz

    Canada News CTV News
    ORILLIA, Ont. - Provincial police say they laid nearly 700 charges against transport truck drivers during a day-long blitz on Ontario's roads last week. Police partnered with the Ministry of Transportation and stopped a total of 1,692 trucks over the 24-hour period on June 13 and 14. Source