GOP Senate candidate backed by billionaire donor who hosted dinner with white supremacist

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Peter Thiel, a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, hosted at least one event in 2016 to which he reportedly invited a white nationalist and other controversial figures.

Author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance announced on Thursday that he would be running for the Republican nomination for Ohio's open U.S. Senate seat in 2022.

The seat is currently held by GOP Sen. Rob Portman, who is retiring. Vance is the seventh Republican to officially file for the election. Also currently running is serial failed Senate candidate Josh Mandel.

The seat is currently rated as "lean Republican" by the Cook Political Report, while Inside Elections says it is "solid" for the party.

In March, in advance of Vance's official campaign declaration, former Paypal executive and billionaire Peter Thiel donated $10 million to Protect Ohio Values, a super PAC supporting Vance's candidacy. On Wednesday, just before Vance's announcement, the PAC released a digital ad in support of his campaign, which they promoted in an "exclusive" for Fox News.

Over the last few years, Thiel has been a prominent voice within the Republican Party. He was one of the featured speakers at the Republican National Convention in 2016, expressing support for former President Donald Trump's campaign, and donated to him through several super PACs.

According to a 2020 Buzzfeed report, as part of his effort to back Trump, Thiel reportedly hosted a dinner with Kevin DeAnna, a prominent white nationalist who founded the far-right group Youth For Western Civilization, in July 2016.

In an email sent on July 16, 2016, Thiel reportedly told DeAnna, "Really enjoyed meeting you last night." The email also includes the suggestion that Thiel was interested in further meetings with the white supremacist. According to Buzzfeed, DeAnna responded to Thiel, writing, "It was a real honor meeting you and thanks for hosting all of us."

DeAnna, the outlet noted, has written in favor of creating a white "ethnostate" which he said is "the great dream of the White Republic" in a 2013 column.

DeAnna is also a proponent of the racist "great replacement" conspiracy theory, which claims that immigration to America from nonwhites is a plot to replace white people. Writing about the conspiracy on the white supremacist site VDARE in July 2019, DeAnna claimed, "Westerners must wake to this demographic tidal wave lest their culture, people and civilization be extinguished."

More recently, elements of the conspiracy have been voiced by Republicans in Congress.

Thiel has not commented publicly on his reported interactions with white nationalist figures.

In addition to Thiel, the conservative Mercer family has also reportedly donated to the pro-Vance super PAC.

Bryan Lanza, a spokesman for the PAC, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Bob and Rebekah Mercer made a "significant contribution" to Protect Ohio Values.

The Mercers, who made their money from hedge funds, were also major donors to Trump's 2016 campaign. They helped to finance the right-wing outlet Breitbart, which has frequently trafficked in racism, sexism, and political smears.

Parler, the right-wing social network, was also financed by the Mercers, and Rebekah Mercer co-founded the company. The network was removed from the Apple app store in January after it became clear that some users had utilized it to organize the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. It has since been restored.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.