GOP donor, investor, philanthropist Foster Friess dies at 81

FILE – In this May 27, 2015, file photo, businessman, Foster Friess is seen in Cabot, Pa. Friess, a wealthy investor and nationally known GOP donor and kingmaker, died Thursday, May 27, 2021, at 81. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Republican political donor, investor and philanthropist Foster Friess died Thursday. He was 81.

A multimillionaire who lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Friess was a GOP kingmaker who donated lavishly to candidates and charitable causes over four decades.

Friess directly gave almost $7 million to hundreds of candidates since the early 1980s, federal campaign finance records show, and was perhaps best known for supporting former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential run in 2012.

“Foster was just larger than life. He filled up the room when he came in,” Santorum said. “And when he left the room, you felt somehow impacted.”

Friess campaigned for Santorum and came through with badly needed funds for television advertising ahead of his Iowa caucuses win, Santorum recalled.

“He had an amazing gift for encouraging people, not just by giving to them but by believing in them,” Santorum added.

Friess entered politics as a candidate only recently, running for Wyoming governor in 2018.

In a six-way Republican primary, Friess finished with 25% to Mark Gordon’s 33%, prompting Friess to complain that Democrats registering as Republicans had cost him critical votes. Gordon went on to be elected governor of the GOP-dominated state.

Friess grew up in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, and got a degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin.

Friess became an investor after serving in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer in the 1960s. In 1974, he founded Friess Associates and in 1985 launched the firm’s flagship Brandywine Fund.

He donated over $500 million to charitable causes over his lifetime, according to his Foster’s Outriders political and philanthropic organization.

Diagnosed in September with myelodysplasia, a bone marrow disease, Friess’ staff said in an automated email reply in recent months that he struggled to keep his weight up but was sustaining himself on “a pizza, spaghetti and oatmeal cookie diet.”

Friess nonetheless kept in contact with reporters, weighing in on political news when asked.

He died surrounded by family in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to a Foster’s Outriders statement.

Friess is survived by his wife, Lynnette, four children and 15 grandchildren. Services are planned in Scottsdale, Jackson and Rice Lake.