Spin Cycle

02.08.12

Santorum Fundraiser Bankrolls Daily Caller

Foster Freiss’ checkbook raises an issue for the Daily Caller.

Foster Friess, the man helping bankroll Rick Santorum’s Super PAC, was right behind him on the stage Tuesday night as the former senator basked in the glow of having won Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.

Friess also has another sideline: funding the Daily Caller.

The Wyoming mutual-fund executive helped conservative commentator Tucker Carlson launch the political website in 2010 with a $3-million investment, and has since funneled more cash to the Caller in a second round of financing.

Does that create a problem for the Caller, whose lead story on Wednesday featured a picture of a beaming Santorum under the headline “Tuesday Treble”?

“Foster is the greatest investor in the history of journalism,” Carlson told me. “There’s only upside when dealing with Foster. Foster’s only requirement for us is that we come pheasant hunting with him once or twice a year. He doesn’t even send us pieces.”

Friess, a Christian philanthropist, is the leading benefactor of the Red White and Blue Fund, the independent group backing Santorum, according to the New York Times. Carlson says he ran into Friess at a Santorum event in Iowa and “had no idea he was even there.”

But surely having the longtime Republican donor play sugar daddy for both a top presidential candidate and Carlson’s website creates a perception problem?

“I have zero interest in what people think about that,” Carlson says. “There’s not a conflict of interest or an appearance of a conflict. Foster has not sought to influence our coverage in any way.”

Before the voting on Tuesday, a Daily Caller reporter wrote: “Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum‘s presidential campaign is seeing a significant resurgence in the polls for the first time since his Iowa caucus win in early January.” But a review of recent coverage does not suggest any kind of pro-Santorum campaign.

The Caller has had a strong couple of years and now has 4.6 million unique monthly visitors, according to a measuring service called Chartbeat.

Friess, who has gone hunting with Dick Cheney has sent out fundraising letters to fight the Obamacare legislation and calls much of the information on global warming “distorted and manipulated.”

He told me by e-mail in 2010 that he was delighted to be subsidizing the venture run by Carlson and Neil Patel, a former Cheney aide who was nominated by the Bush White House to run the National Telecommunications and Information Administration but never confirmed. “Tucker and Neil present a huge opportunity to re-introduce civility to our political discourse,” Friess said. “They are mature, sensible men who are very thoughtful and experienced with pleasant senses of humor and do not take themselves too seriously. They want to make a contribution to the dialogue that occurs in our country that has become too antagonistic, nasty and hostile. . . .

“You don’t have to be around them very long to sense that they are hard working, committed American Patriots who love this country.”

In a Fox Business Network interview with Lou Dobbs last week, Friess said: “I love Rick Santorum’s chances of winning and he and I have known each other for 16 years and I—the day I met him I saw his authenticity, his love of God, family, and country, but that’s not why I’m supporting him. And I also have a hard time with some of his policies. I try to talk him out of them, but I—we just chew up too many pieces of pizza in the process and it doesn’t work. See, he’s a man of conviction.”