Add another name to the list of Marco Rubio’s megadonors: Frank VanderSloot.
The Idaho billionaire—most recently in the news for badly losing a lengthy defamation suit against Mother Jones magazine—announced on Wednesday that he would back the newly anointed Republican establishment favorite, adding another bold-faced name to Rubio's list of top GOP donors that already included investor Paul Singer and hedge fund manager Cliff Asness. Rubio is also widely seen as the favorite to land the lavish backing of casino magnet Sheldon Adelson, who spent a staggering $100 million in 2012, making him the largest individual donor (non-dark money category) that election cycle.
VanderSloot isn’t saying just how much he plans to spend to help Rubio get elected, but he made it clear that in addition to donating to a candidate-aligned super PAC, he’ll also host fundraisers and bundle contributions on the Florida senator’s behalf. During the last presidential cycle, VanderSloot showed that he’s willing to spend big on his favored candidate and to encourage his deep-pocketed friends to do the same. As one of Mitt Romney’s national finance co-chairs in 2012, he raised upwards of $2 million for the campaign, and—along with his company—gave more than $1 million to a Romney-backing super PAC.
The businessman made the rounds on Wednesday to tout his endorsement (proving he’s willing to overlook his strained relationship with the media when it serves his purpose)."We started out by saying we needed to answer these two questions: Who would be the best president? And number two, who can get elected?" he told the Washington Post. The answer to both, he said, "ended up being the same person."
His certainty that Rubio is the best candidate for the job, though, is a new development. He previously cut checks to other GOP hopefuls, including Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina, and suggested earlier this year that he would also give Jeb Bush a long look. In a letter accompanying the announcement, VanderSloot suggested that after surveying the field, Fiorina remains his second choice. "She would be a great president,” he wrote. “But she simply isn’t resonating with the voters. She doesn’t seem to have the skill of being able to garner support and change people’s minds. That is where Marco Rubio shines."
VanderSloot and his establishment-minded friends now need to hope that they’re right about Marco. Fueled in large part by his strong debate performances—along with Jeb Bush’s flailing campaign—Rubio has emerged as the best positioned of the more traditional candidates in the field. Donald Trump and Ben Carson, though, remain at the top of national and early state polls with less than three months before the nominating contest officially kicks off in Iowa.