Hillary’s New Play, Newsom’s Midterm Post-Mortem, & a Thiel Shake-Up

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton is fundraising for a new philanthropic entity. Photo: Stefano Mazzola/Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
October 25, 2022

On Monday evening, Hillary Clinton gathered about 100 of her top donors and longtime supporters at the St. Regis in New York to talk about her future. No, no, she’s not running for anything, but Clinton turns 75 on Wednesday, and the former first lady, senator, and secretary of state wanted to convene her network to say thanks and rally the troops ahead of the final sprint before Election Day. She was described to me by attendees as upbeat and enthusiastic.

Clinton, though, has also been thinking about what’s next for herself—and there is a new project on the horizon. She has been pitching donors on a new philanthropic entity called the Hillary Rodham Clinton Leadership Project, I’m told, which will be housed at the Clinton Foundation. The new Clinton initiative will both highlight what Clinton has already done, particularly for women around the world, and serve as a new home for Clinton to talk about her own philanthropic work going forward—on democracy, global health and leadership development.

Clinton does a lot of fundraising for her existing entities, such as Onward Together, her 501(c)4, its associated 501(c)3 foundation, and I’m told that Clinton’s 2016 finance chief Dennis Cheng has also been raising money to beat back litigation from Donald Trump and John Durham. But Hillary will now have a trademark philanthropic project within the foundation that, after all, was originally founded by her husband (it was retitled in 2013 to include her name). To that end, in early December, Hillary is bringing her network to Little Rock for a new Women’s Voices Summit.

A Thielworld Shake-Up

There are almost no aides to Peter Thiel with larger public profiles than Eric Weinstein, the mathematical physics PhD who came to prominence over the past few years as the founding father of what he called the “intellectual dark web.” Since then, Weinstein has become a sort of public intellectual to various contrarian thinkers, populist reactionaries, and a small but devoted following among the Silicon Valley crowd, frequenting Joe Rogan’s podcast and dispensing daily provocations to his 700,000 followers on Twitter. All the while, Weinstein has maintained a day job as a Managing Director at Thiel Capital, the investor’s family office. Or he did, until recently. I learned this week that Weinstein quietly exited Thiel’s shop sometime over the last few months. (Weinstein didn’t return a request for comment.)

Weinstein is the second senior executive to leave Thiel’s family office in recent months in a broader shake-up at the firm. As I previously reported, Jimmy Kaltreider, the executive director of the Thiel Foundation, was fired earlier this summer over primarily personal, and some political, issues. I’m also told that Sebastian Kurz, the former chancellor of Austria who is being investigated for corruption, has had his part-time role diminished. Jack Selby, another Thiel Capital investor with a Managing Director title, launched his own venture fund earlier this year, although he technically remains at Thiel Capital. And then there is, of course, Blake Masters, the firm’s chief operating officer and Thiel’s longtime de facto chief of staff, who resigned this year to run for Senate in Arizona.

In the wake of Kaltreider’s ouster, I’m told that the firm’s new chief operating officer and Masters’s successor at the Foundation, Brian Rowen, has worked to clean up the family office, which led to Weinstein’s own departure. But Weinstein’s departure is significant because, short of Masters, no Thiel aide has anything resembling Weinstein’s public stature. After all, most family office aides intentionally avoid the spotlight. But Weinstein is indisputably a brand in his own right, hosting a culture podcast, popularizing the “I.D.W.” (half-jokingly, according to Bari Weiss’s memorable profile) alongside fellow travelers like Lex Fridman and Jordan Peterson, and cultivating a fan base that overlaps with Rogan’s. 

In P.T.’s orbit, Weinstein was a “man of many hats,” Thiel once said, calling him “a truly great heterodox thinker.” Weinstein has worked for Thiel since 2013, when Thiel asked him to help him “think things through from first principles,” as Weinstein once told Tim Ferriss. Weinstein has different politics than Thiel—like Rogan, he voted for Bernie, and like Rogan, he fashions himself a “contrarian,” with a wide range of heterodox fans from across the tech industry. 

Weinstein has relished touching controversy on topics from Ivermectin, the purported Covid drug, to Jeffrey Epstein. I have no doubt that in this era, when everyone, even family-office aides, can become influencers, that Weinstein will maintain his following even without the Thiel paycheck. “I’m really only interested in building this intellectual movement,” Weinstein told Weiss a few years ago. “The I.D.W. has bigger goals than anyone’s buzz or celebrity.” 

Gavin’s Midterm Post-Mortem

Gavin Newsom has been very voluble and caustic about the Democratic Party’s feebleness in the culture wars du jour. “Where the hell is my party?” Newsom memorably said in the wake of the Dobbs decision leak in May. And at the well-attended Texas Tribune festival last month, Newsom said Republicans are “winning right now.” 

“Where are we?” Newsom said. “Where are we organizing, bottom-up, a compelling alternative narrative? Where are we going on offense every single day?” Newsom has summarily dismissed speculation that he is running for president in 2024, but intra-party rebukes like those certainly raise his profile in case Joe Biden decides to bow out.

Now, I hear, Newsom’s team is giving thought to him delivering a major post-mortem speech about politics in the first few weeks after Election Day. No decision has been made yet on whether the speech even happens. What exactly he says—and how big a rhetorical swing he takes or doesn’t take—depends, of course, on what happens in the midterms, and just how badly Democrats get shellacked

It’s possible, I hear, that he plays it small and focuses on his plans for his second term as governor of California, in which case this will end up being a disappointing spectacle for national media salivating over the prospect of someone other than Biden running for president—and essentially serve as a flag-marker for 2028. But if he goes big and talks about the need for fresh leadership and ideas in the party, expect the speculation about a hypothetical ’24 Democratic primary fight to amplify—and become more distracting for the current occupant of the Oval Office.