Elves and Epstein with Peter Thiel

“Peter Thiel has lost interest in democracy,” a lengthy profile from Barton Gellman at the Atlantic announces. The piece reveals that Thiel, the techno-libertarian billionaire behind the Senate runs of Blake Masters and J.D. Vance, has no intention of donating to politicians in the 2024 election cycle.

What does Thiel consider to be a better use of his money? Triumphing over death. “He has spent enormous sums trying to evade his own end but feels that, if anything, he should devote even more time and money to solving the problem of human mortality,” Gellman writes. Thiel draws a lot of his vision from The Lord of the Rings:

“How are the elves different from the humans in Tolkien? And they’re basically — I think the main difference is just, they’re humans that don’t die.”

“So why can’t we be elves?” I asked.

Thiel nodded reverently, his expression a blend of hope and chagrin.

“Why can’t we be elves?” he said.

Also slipped into the piece: Thiel’s theory on whether disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein was a government asset: “Thiel told me he thinks Epstein ‘was probably entangled with Israeli military intelligence’” but was more involved with “the US deep state.’”

Gellman attempts to speak to many of Thiel’s contemporaries, such as LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman. An effort to get a quote from Elon Musk, whose SpaceX was saved by a $20 million Thiel investment, goes less well: “I tried to reach Musk at X, requesting an interview, but got a poop emoji in response.”

Johnson scrambles to fix fundraising woes

Following his ascent to the speakership, Louisiana’s Mike Johnson showed his gangbusters fundraising chops, raking in over $1 million in online donations — but some of his colleagues sounded alarms about his ability to bring the GOP’s heavy hitters on board.

New York Republicans in particular expressed concerns about Johnson replacing Kevin McCarthy, who allies view as the “LeBron James of fundraising.” But Johnson has kept McCarthy’s sprawling super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, in order, and he’s increasingly relying on McCarthy’s money man, Jeff Miller, for help — two clear signs that those in the new speaker’s orbit have a sense of the challenges ahead.

Miller, who’s helped McCarthy raise tens of millions of dollars for House Republicans, is now helping Johnson get the GOP gang back together — joining Miller at an event scheduled to raise well into the seven figures for Johnson’s Leadership Fund include the chair of the NRCC, Richard Hudson, one of his rivals for the speakership, Jim Jordan, and prominent GOP committee chairs such as Jason Smith, Mike Rogers and Mike Bost.

McCarthy was on track to raise several hundred millions of dollars for House Republicans in the next year. Johnson has his work cut out for him — but the pieces are starting to fall into place.

Matt Gaetz, documentarian

Shy and retiring Florida congressman Matt Gaetz will tell you that his crusade to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker last month was due to broken promises regarding Ukraine funding and votes on term limits — and had nothing to do with his bruised ego or urge to self-promote. In support of this claim is a press release this morning: “Congressman Matt Gaetz Releases Gaveled Out Documentary on the Removal of Kevin McCarthy from Speakership.”

The thirteen-minute short consists largely of news footage of Gaetz from last December onwards, laying out the constraints under which he was hoping the new Republican speaker would operate. There is also a voiceover. Cockburn can’t see the congressman bagging a prize at Sundance any time soon.

Which presidency does Joe Manchin want more: USA or WVU?

With yesterday’s news that Joe Manchin is abandoning the Senate, pundits sprinted to proclaim — based in large part on his own words — that he’s set to run for president. As Cockburn’s colleague Ben Domenech pointed out earlier this morning, he has every reason to do so.

But there’s another presidency that Manchin may have his eye on, as Cockburn first reported earlier this year: taking over West Virginia University.

The school’s aging president is on the outs, and Cockburn checked in with a series of West Virginia veterans to see if Manchin still wants to run his alma mater as he heads into the twilight of his career.

“Joe wants that job real bad,” one told him. With President Gordon Gee leaving next year, it’s possible Manchin could ever still mount his quixotic presidential quest and have time to take over his state’s flagship institution before the 2025 school year kicks off.

A lot of the DC press corps views Manchin through a DC lens, but most Charleston observers have known about his WVU yearnings all year long. With one domino out of the way, Manchin may be closer to the job he’s actually wanted this whole time…

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