Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel seems an unlikely choice to serve as an adviser for any presidential administration. The avowed libertarian, after all, has long eschewed the stifling bureaucratic culture of Washington, D.C. “In our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms,” Thiel wrote in a 2009 essay published by the Cato Institute. “We are in a deadly race between politics and technology.” Thiel seems an unlikely fit for the Trump White House, in particular. While he is, like Trump and many of his closest advisers, incredibly wealthy, Thiel is also gay and an intellectual in an administration that is antagonistic toward both gay rights and intellectuals.
Now, Thiel’s early bet on Trump’s fortunes is beginning to pay off as he reportedly consolidates his power in Washington, D.C. “Once Election Day came and went, Peter Thiel was a major force in the transition,” one senior Trump campaign aide told Politico. “When you have offices and you bring staff with you and you attend all the meetings, then you have a lot of power.”
Thiel has been using his power primarily to help staff the Trump administration, vetting candidates to lead the Federal Trade Commission and helping elevate associates from his investment firms to serve in the Department of Commerce, the Pentagon, and even the National Security Council. Another Thiel ally, Yale computer scientist David Gelernter, also won an audience with the president to potentially serve as his science adviser. Back in San Francisco, Thiel’s employees have reportedly begun referring to their boss as “the shadow president.”
Several Thiel associates who have been appointed or are rumored to be candidates for top positions in the U.S. government share the billionaire’s distaste for bureaucracy and regulation, which Thiel believes is holding the country back from a technological revolution. Among them is Jim O’Neill, a libertarian and managing director at Thiel’s venture capital firm, Mithril Capital Management, who is…