Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who pumped $15 million into a super PAC that helped make Blake Masters the Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona, is planning to spend as much as $5 million more in the race, according to people familiar with the matter.
The additional spending would mark a reversal for Thiel, who had previously indicated he was not going to make a financial commitment in the general election.
He previewed his updated plans, which have not been previously reported, in talks this week with a representative from a PAC linked to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Thiel suggested he and the PAC each put $5 million behind Masters, a friend and former employee of the venture capitalist’s.
But Steven Law, who heads the McConnell-linked group, the Senate Leadership Fund, indicated to Thiel on Thursday that he could not find the resources to make that commitment, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private details. The PAC had previously canceled $9.6 million in ads initially reserved for the race, citing costs elsewhere and spending by other conservative groups to boost Masters.
A spokesman for the Senate Leadership Fund declined to comment. A spokesman for Thiel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The discussions of a possible joint contribution were first reported by Axios, and the response Thursday from Law was first reported by Politico.
Thiel’s thinking about additional spending has evolved as the race, in which Masters is aiming to unseat Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), has remained close, according to people who have spoken to him. Kelly has enjoyed a significant financial advantage, holding in reserve nearly $25 million as of the last reporting period, which ran through mid-July, compared to $1.5 million on hand for Masters.
In a series of phone calls over the summer earlier reported by The Washington Post, Thiel indicated to McConnell and his associates that he was not planning to spend more, beyond the $15 million he contributed in the primary to a pro-Masters PAC, called Saving Arizona. His position at the time was that McConnell’s group should spend for a Senate majority, and that an additional cash infusion from him might be used as a Democratic talking point.
Early voting in Arizona has already started. County recorders began to send out mail ballots on Wednesday, also the first day polling places could open for in-person early voting.