Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess have been in the spotlight as the billionaire backers of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, respectively, but one man has given more than either of them to the GOP's 2012 effort: Harold Clark Simmons. The difference is that Simmons, the 80-year-old Texas billionaire head of chemicals and metals conglomerate Contran Corp., isn't giving to one particular candidate—his MO is basically anyone but, in his words, "that socialist." The $18.7 million that Simmons, his wife, and his company have donated makes him the largest contributor of the election cycle so far, the Wall Street Journal reports in an extensive profile, and he plans to spend $36 million before America heads to the polls in November.
The money has gone to super PACs supporting Santorum, Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney, but most of it has gone to the super PAC advised by Karl Rove, with whom Simmons is close. The goal of American Crossroads is to replace President Obama with a Republican, any Republican—a goal that coincides with Simmons' own desires. His big motivations are deregulation and tort reform, thanks to his business interests, and he's looking to use his cash to match the "unlimited amounts" he says labor unions give to liberal candidates. New super PAC contribution rules allow him to do just that: "I have lots of money, and can give it legally now," says Simmons, who is worth an estimated $10 billion, "just never to Democrats."