Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire who supported Donald Trump in 2016 and sunk millions more into underperforming Maga candidates in subsequent election cycles, has confirmed rumors that he is stepping away from 2024 political funding.
In an interview with the Atlantic, Thiel said voting for Trump “was like a not very articulate scream for help” and that things had not turned out the way he had hoped when he donated $1.25m to Trump and Trump-affiliated political funds eight years ago.
“There are a lot of things I got wrong,” he said. “It was crazier than I thought. It was more dangerous than I thought. They couldn’t get the most basic pieces of the government to work. So that was – I think that part was maybe worse than even my low expectations.”
Thiel told the magazine that Trump had called him earlier this year to solicit $10m – the same amount that he had donated to Blake Masters, a former protege who campaigned and lost a Senate bid in Arizona last year, and JD Vance, the author of Hillbilly Elegy who won an Ohio Senate seat.
When Thiel turned down Trump’s request, he said the former president told him that “he was very sad, very sad to hear that”. He later heard that Trump had insulted him to Masters, calling him a “fucking scumbag”.
Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and the big-data analytics firm Palantir whose fortune is estimated at between $4bn and $9bn, said that while he was not planning to donate in this cycle, “there’s always a chance I might change my mind”. He added that his husband “doesn’t want me to give them any more money, and he’s right”.
He also said that he knew political candidates are “going to be pestering me like crazy”.
The Atlantic profile sheds light on why Thiel, sometimes described as a techno-libertarian, had become a political donor at all.
He explained that in early 2016, when a jury sided with Terry Gene Bollea, AKA Hulk Hogan, in an invasionof privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media – an action Thiel had funded – he read it as a sign that Trump could win.
Ten days before Trump’s political coronation at the Republican national convention that year, Trump’s son Don Jr called to ask if Thiel wanted to speak from the platform. He agreed, he told the magazine, in part because he favored candidates with pessimistic slogans.