Yesterday, Nate Hochman published an interesting profile of Blake Masters, who is running for the Republican nomination in the 2022 Arizona Senate primary. I learned a lot from it. However, I still have a few questions about — and for — Masters.
Nate notes that Peter Thiel, a billionaire Silicon Valley tech investor and entrepreneur as well as a conservative megadonor, is “one of Masters’s longtime mentors and business associates.” (I wrote about Thiel over the summer.) They met when Masters took a class at Stanford taught by Thiel; Masters’s notes for that class became the best-selling book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, which lists Thiel and Masters as co-authors. Masters currently works for Thiel as president of Thiel Capital and chief operating officer of the Thiel Foundation. In addition to having donated $10 million to a super PAC supporting Masters’s candidacy, Thiel is paying Masters as an employee and continues to fundraise for him.
Masters assured a previous interviewer that his campaign is his campaign, “not Peter’s campaign.” He added that Thiel “sees some promise in me, but he knows I’ll be an independent-minded senator.” In a different interview, Masters was asked whether Peter Thiel should pay more taxes. His response:
I’m open to it. Look, I know a lot of wealthy people. Obviously, I know Peter really well. Everybody tries to pay the legal minimum, right? Nobody’s trying to overpay their tax bill. What I hear from a lot of rich people is they would be happy to pay more in taxes if the money was used well. These people are used to running businesses. They’re used to being efficient. They don’t like throwing money away. And so when they see a federal government that is so horribly run, there’s tons of waste, fraud and abuse. You know, maybe it doesn’t make sense to pay a boatload of taxes to just have your government go and start dropping bombs randomly in Syria. We’re paying for illegal immigrants to be put up in hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, you go to a public park, and you see military veterans who are homeless in need of mental healthcare, not getting it. So the sense among a lot of rich people that I know is they would actually be happy to pay more in taxes if they were getting something from it. If there was a sense that the government was spending money wisely to help people in America rebuild a middle class and have a functioning society. I think people would be open to paying a little bit more taxes in the top, top, top elite of our economy.
My first question for Blake Masters: Would he be open to investigating Peter Thiel’s use of tax-free Roth IRAs to house $5 billion in assets, as he has done for 20 years? After all, Thiel definitely belongs in the “top, top, top elite of our economy.” And if our tax system is to be more equitable, and if Masters believes that “just doing tax cuts” is no longer adequate tax policy, it would be a shame if all of Thiel’s money were to elude the government’s reach.
Thiel’s relationship with Masters is not just financial. Masters said that “the thinking behind [Zero to One] and just the countless conversations I’ve had with Peter over the years have really been instrumental in forming my political outlook and beliefs.” Well, in 2016, when Peter Thiel spoke at the Republican National Convention, he called the culture wars “fake.” Nate has sensibly urged Republicans to engage more in culture-war issues. Profiling Masters, Nate calls him a member of a new breed of candidates with a “renewed interest in cultural issues.” Does Masters agree with Thiel that the culture wars are fake?
The same speech contains a reference to a then-raging controversy about transgender bathrooms. Thiel said:
When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won. Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?
In light of the controversy about an alleged sexual assault in a bathroom at a Loudoun County, Va., public school, about which Nate has written eloquently, this statement by Thiel seems callous. Does Blake Masters agree with it?
Nate writes that Thiel is “a unique figure in the Republican donor class, which typically prefers Chamber of Commerce–style candidates over their more populist counterparts.” In the past, Thiel has donated to notably Chamber of Commerce—style initiatives supporting the legalization of marijuana of same-sex marriage, helping those causes succeed at a time when their success was not guaranteed. In early 2017, Peter Thiel was asked in an interview whether he thought the Trump administration would do much to advance social conservatism. Thiel said he didn’t think so, and would be “concerned if he thought otherwise.” He added: “There are just all these ways I think stuff has just shifted.” Does Masters agree with Thiel’s view of social conservatism? Does Masters, who once tweeted that “not everything has to be gay,” believe that Obergefell v. Hodges, a 2015 Supreme Court case that imposed a new definition of marriage by 5—4 judicial fiat, is just another one of these things that has “shifted,” and is now settled law?
Masters has elsewhere argued that conservative should not be satisfied with 9–0 cases that are narrowly decided, such as the Court’s recent ruling in Fulton v. Philadelphia that the government of the city of Philadelphia could not condition its working relationship with Catholic adoption agencies on their certifying same-sex couples as parents. This is all well and good. But many social conservatives believe that, as with the advance of transgenderism, such policies have flowed ineluctably from the floodgate opened by Obergefell. What positive action, as opposed to mere rhetoric or simply a more aggressive defensive crouch, is Masters prepared to take on this front to restore America’s moral capital?
Nate identifies another quality of the new breed of candidate of which Masters is an example as “a newfound skepticism of increasingly activist Fortune 500 corporations and the concentrated power of Big Tech.” In addition to being the first outside investor in Facebook, a company Masters has criticized, Peter Thiel (who also sits on Facebook’s board) founded and has profited handsomely from his investment in a company called Palantir. It is a pioneer of techniques that involve processing and analyzing vast quantities of digital information for the patterns they contain. It currently has many government contracts, including one to facilitate distribution of coronavirus vaccines. Would Blake Masters, who has called coronavirus-vaccine mandates “evil,” support the further integration of Palantir, a private company in which Peter Thiel is invested, with the U.S. government? Or, if it grew to a sufficient size, would he support its breakup or regulation by the government? After all, if we are concerned by the rise of Big Tech, then one company shouldn’t get a pass.
I eagerly await Blake Masters’s answers to my questions.