“I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” -- Peter Thiel, April 13 2009
The Gay Billionaire Pothead Behind the Senate's New Right-Wing Star
Gawker, September 30, 2013
Where does a man like Ted Cruz get the confidence to IRL troll the United States Senate for 21 hours? Knowing that PayPal billionaire and Silicon Valley kingpin Peter Thiel has his back surely helps.
It's an odd marriage of interests, the sort Cruz otherwise opposes as a matter of principle: Peter Thiel is a pot-smoking gay man, which makes him the kind of person Cruz supporters would like to launch into some sort of Martian exile. But Thiel is also, crucially, a massively rich bussinessman, which is enough for Cruz to shelve his Tea Party druthers and accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Silicon Valley luminary. Adjacent bigots have yelled at Cruz for pocketing Thiel's cash, but he has every reason to ignore them: last year, Thiel gave $2 million to Club for Growth, a SuperPAC that in turn poured over $600,000 into Cruz's (successful) senatorial run. Club for Growth is still a vocal supporter of Cruz as he's flailed and railed against Obamacare.
Is it lunacy to be the most loyal supporter of a man who thinks you don't deserve equal protection under the law? No crazier than paying kids to drop out of school, cure death, or create a floating libertarian ocean utopia.
Village Voice, September 22, 2009
But the Voice has learned that O'Keefe, in fact, has had heavyweight conservative backers who funded the young filmmaker as recently as a few months before his ACORN films were made.
The ACORN videos are actually just the latest of several films O'Keefe has produced and uploaded to YouTube. An earlier film posted in February, "Taxpayers Clearing House" featured nonwhite, working class people being duped by O'Keefe, who led them to believe they had won money in a sweepstakes.
That video was produced with the help of a grant -- said to be about $30,000 [Thiel's spokesman says closer to $10,000 -- see update] -- from Peter Thiel, one of the founders of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook -- an investment which made him a billionaire. Thiel is one of Silicon Valley's more interesting figures: a gay man (according to Gawker's "Valleywag") who has railed against the evils of "multiculturalism." He lives in San Francisco and today runs a hedge fund.
O'Keefe is now well known as the young man who dressed up as a pimp with a colleague, Townhall.com blogger Hannah Giles, who was dressed like a prostitute. The pair traveled around the country, seeking advice from ACORN workers about how to hide prostitution money for tax purposes. At five of the offices they visited, ACORN workers gave such advice while O'Keefe's hidden camera was rolling. The videos have cost ACORN the support of Congress, the U.S. Census and the White House, and the organization stands to lose tens of millions of dollars in government grants.
O'Keefe, meanwhile, has repeatedly claimed to be financially independent. In an interview with the New York Post shortly after the ACORN videos hit the Internet, O'Keefe claimed to be "absolutely independent." Giles said she had "drained my entire savings" to spend the summer making the undercover videos. O'Keefe estimated his budget at $1,300, and said that Giles had paid for her own plane ticket to California. The couple said they lived off of Power Bars and Subway sandwiches for two months.
But O'Keefe turns out to have a substantial history of being funded by conservative figures.
In February, a video called "Taxpayers Clearing House" was posted to YouTube. In it, O'Keefe and others drive around in a van with a logo on the side that looks like the "Publishers Clearing House" vehicle known for showing up and surprising sweepstakes winners with oversized checks. In O'Keefe's video, working class Blacks are shown jumping up and down in excitement - until they learn that O'Keefe is actually delivering a bill for $28,000, their share of the federal banks bailout.
O'Keefe told a friend, Liz Farkas, that he had approached Thiel with the idea for the video, and had walked away with "approximately $30,000" to produce it.
Farkas told the New York Times this week that she and O'Keefe, who met at Rutgers University, clashed over publishing incomplete transcripts from another sting involving an abortion provider.
Through a representative, Peter Thiel confirmed that he had funded "Taxpayers Clearing House" through a "small-government group," but denied having any involvement with the ACORN videos. The representative says Thiel first learned of the new O'Keefe videos after they hit the Internet, and having "watched them on YouTube...he shares the view that taxpayer money should not promote human trafficking." ...
From the Founders Fund website
As a venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Peter has been involved with some of the most dynamic companies to emerge from Silicon Valley in the past decade. Peter’s first start-up was PayPal, which he co-founded in 1998, and led as Chairman and CEO. Peter’s tenure culminated in PayPal’s sale to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002. After the eBay acquisition, Peter founded Clarium Capital Management, a global macro hedge fund. Peter also helped launch Palantir Technologies, an analytical software company, and serves as the chairman of that company’s board.
Before launching Founders Fund with his PayPal partners Ken Howery and Luke Nosek, Peter was an active venture capitalist in his personal capacity, funding companies like Facebook, where Peter was that company’s first outside investor and director. Peter’s contributions to technology, entrepreneurship, and finance have been widely recognized, including by the World Economic Forum.
Peter is also involved with a variety of philanthropic, academic, and cultural pursuits. He serves as a primary supporter of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a group that promotes press freedom worldwide; the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, which seeks to foster the responsible development of advanced computing technologies; and the SENS Foundation, a medical charity dedicated to extending healthy human lifespans. Peter remains active at his alma mater, and has taught at Stanford Law School, in addition to serving on the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
Peter received a BA in Philosophy from Stanford University and a JD from Stanford Law School.
Forbes, September 27, 2013
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm began raising the nearly $200 million round in early September as disclosed in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In a Sept. 2 cover story, FORBES first reported that Palantir was pursuing a financing that could value the company between $5 billion and $8 billion.
Sources close to the company said that they expect additional backing, which could take the total round in excess of $200 million. Morgan Stanley brokered a substantial part of the new round, earning a $4 million sales commission as noted on the SEC document.
Prior to the latest investment, Palantir’s funding totaled around $500 million according to CEO Alex Karp. The latest round takes its fundraising total to about $700 million. Previous investors include billionaires Kenneth Langone and Stanley Druckenmiller as well as CIA venture arm In-Q-Tel; hedge fund Tiger Global; and Peter Thiel’s venture firm, Founders Fund. Thiel, a cofounder and chairman, is the company’s single largest shareholder–with about a 12% stake prior to the most recent fundraising–after personally investing more than $40 million.
In an interview with FORBES, Thiel noted that he’s always believed that Palantir could be worth as much as Facebook, but that it would take time to get to a similar valuation. “Enterprise software companies always grow much more slowly at first,” he said. “You can’t always get the viral growth like those consumer companies like Google or Facebook.”
Palantir is not yet profitable, but expects to get there by 2014, according to Karp. Revenues are expected to hit $450 million this year, up from $300 million last year, based on FORBES estimates. Karp, in an interview last month, said that while his company would eventually go public, he was lukewarm to the idea at the time.
Additional reporting by Andy Greenberg in New York and Tomio Geron in San Francisco.
The other revelation related to Snowden’s disclosure is that social networking companies like Facebook or search engines like Google are the source of the data-mining, as well as phone companies. And here lies the intersection of private companies and the surveillance state.
Probably nobody represents this fusion of private/state cooperative surveillance better than Peter Thiel. Thiel is the German-born son of a chemical engineer that moved to California. He was a high-school whiz kid that was obsessed with the “Star Wars” movies and Tolkien’s “The Lord Of The Rings. At Stanford, he distanced himself from perceived diversity issues by founding “The Stanford Review”, the premier conservative paper of the college and according to critics it “set out to provoke and offend”.
This accusation followed Thiel as he donated $1 million to an allegedly racist group:
“Insiders at Clarium Capital, the $5.3 billion hedge fund run by Facebook investor Peter Thiel, are buzzing about their boss’s $1 million donation to NumbersUSA, an anti-immigrant group. The donation is an open secret within Clarium, and it has enraged several staff members who joined Clarium because they believed Thiel shared their libertarian ideals. When I asked Thiel if he’d made the donation, an underling passed on a nondenial saying the company didn’t comment on “gossip and heresy.” A typo — he meant to say “hearsay” — but a suggestive one. Thiel has fallen under the sway of Robertson “Rob” Morrow III, a Christian right-wing thinker who has personally donated to NumbersUSA, and persuaded Thiel to make his own, much larger donation. * NumbersUSA is a front organization for anti-immigrant, racist, John Tanton who founded the nativist Federation for American Immigration Reform. The Tanton and NumbersUSA agenda is basically nativist xenophobia with a good dose of anti-Latino hysteria.”
Thiel represents the schizophrenic nature of Libertarian ideology: on one hand, he proposed (along with Milton Friedman’s grandson Patri) to build huge floating Libertarian islands 200 miles off the coast. They would be out of the reach of U.S. tax authorities and the law in general. Sort of a rich man’s “Lord Of The Flies”, with servants that need not have wage or safety guarantees. On the other hand, Thiel is embedded in the surviellance culture. After creating PayPal, he moved on to help Mark Zuckerberg develop Facebook, a gift to intelligence agencies and marketing firms. Of course, Facebook is on the front line of companies rolling information into NSA files.
For a Libertarian, Thiel doesn’t mind making money off Uncle Sam. Thiel’s more recent company is Palantir, a data mining outfit that uses a software program called “Prism”. Interestingly, “Prism” is also the software name that Edward Snowden disclosed as a NSA tool. From “The Atlantic Wire”:
Palantir was a product of Thiel sponsered by In-Q-Tel:
So Palantir, along with an unknown number of hi-tech firms, is a CIA “start-up” company. The software program “Prism”, if it was indeed the same name as another company’s product, would surely be the subject of lawsuits which are absent from the issue. In that case, Palantir’s denial that it’s Prism software is not being used by the NSA is suspect.
Thiel represents hypocrisy unleashed. A “Libertarian” in the anarcho-capitalist mode that has no issue with helping the Government – strike that – private corporations glean every word, text and keystroke transmitted in the United States. His ungoverned floating island paradises as well as his willingness to be a snoop illustrate the fine line between the cult of Libertarianism and the emerging Fascism of a computer-driven surveillance state.
The raw fact that the collective bureaucracy intended to manage the affairs of the American people in an equitable way (Government) has been bought and paid for by corporations should worry all of us. In a narrow focus we see that private contractors are reaping billions of dollars managing the private information of all U.S. citizens. This appears to be going on without Government oversight, and no one knows how much information is being used by private companies for investment purposes, industrial espionage, or blackmail.
We may have gone past the point of no return in the surveillance state, and just about everyone agrees that the country needs to be protected. But with the information in the hands of private contractors with no penalties for abusing the system, there are huge problems. If the genie is out of the bottle, it needs to be overseen by Uncle Sam.