Billionaire GOP donor Foster Friess says contraception has been ‘good’ to him

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

Republican Party donor Foster Friess, 72—Rick Santorum's backer in his bid to be president—made headlines in 2012 for joking that, in his day, "Gals put [aspirin] between their knees" as a form of inexpensive contraception.

When Yahoo News on Friday asked Friess about the GOP's relationship with women, he once again showed interest in the topic. Only this time, it was personal.

"Hugh Hefner said, 'This guy Friess wants to reverse the sexual revolution,'" Friess said. "Well, I have four kids, they're two years apart, and contraception's been very, very good to me."

Friess, speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor—in which he discussed a range of topics, from get-out-the-vote efforts to the need for party cohesion—declined to offer further details about his personal choices. He did, however, credit Democrats for successfully controlling the "war on woman" dialogue—with the help of "The View" talk show host Joy Behar—and for spreading the idea that Santorum falsely wanted to ban contraception.

Republicans, he believe, would do well to imitate their efforts. "How the Democrats got away with this, I think, is another indication of a flaw of Republicans—no one confronted that and said this is bald-faced demagoguery," Friess said, adding that women were "seduced" into believing that "this was a war."

He also faulted President Barack Obama for failing to give equal pay to women at the White House and for being someone who "bows to a leader of a country that doesn't allow women to vote or drive a car." (Friess did not say which leader.)

As for get-out-the-vote efforts, Friess suggested that the GOP would also do well to look to the Democratic Party: "I would basically have more on-the-ground activity; I would emulate what [Obama] did." He noted that he had early on questioned the effectiveness of his phone-banking for Santorum compared with Obama's making personal connections with voters at dinners and barbecues.

"It's once been said that for Democrats this is a blood sport," Friess said about politics. "For Republicans, this is a hobby. And that's why Democrats run the government and Republicans run the museums."

Friess also espoused Republican cohesion, calling on his party to end its divisiveness and come together for the good of the country. "Right now, the Republican Party has their tail between their legs," Friess said, even as he noted that Republicans occupy 30 governorships and won control of state legislatures across the country in 2012.

Asked if he believes he contributed to Mitt Romney's general election defeat by supporting Santorum and dividing the party, Friess was adamant that this was not the case. "We helped Mitt Romney," Friess said, explaining that Romney was able to court conservatives by learning from Santorum's successes. "I heard him paraphrase some of Rick's same vision." Additionally, "I don't believe any Republican can win without social conservatives," he said.

At one point, Friess expressed support for gays, noting that his brother-in-law is gay. But he stopped short of advocating gay marriage. Instead, he suggested that America needs to be wary of creeping Sharia law in the U.S. threatening gay Americans, as well as countries that "kill" gays.

Friess is already looking ahead to 2016 and said he would support a Santorum campaign. "Rick Santorum has so much potential," Friess said, adding that Santorum isn't "motivated by perks" or status.

Friess would not, however, confirm his reported interest in creating a super PAC, and suggested the form in which he chooses to donate is not an issue.

"It's exciting to be part of the 1 percent," said Friess, who noted it has given him the ability to get involved in things like disaster relief. He has no interest, he added, in making excuses for being wealthy. "I'm not going to give up my lifestyle," he said.

Asked if he has spoken with other millionaires and billionaires about future political endeavors, Friess, who lives in Wyoming, noted that he surrounds himself with the same people he knew in childhood. "I don't know that many millionaires and billionaires," he said.

As for the others in the richest 1 percent with political clout, he suggested Democratic donor George Soros is funding research in churches in an effort to force some to lose their tax-exempt status. "This may seem conspiratorial," he admitted, saying he "read it on the internet" and can't confirm the validity of the information.

Despite all his differences with the Democratic Party and specific criticisms of the president, however, Friess said everyone needs to support Obama's efforts to repair the nation's economy. "The excitement that I see going forward now for our country is that all of us need to kind of help President Obama create his legacy," said Friess, "which I'm sure he does not want to go down as the president [who] bankrupted America."