Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters in his You Tube campaign launch (You Tube) and billionaire Peter Thiel (Demo Conference/Stephen Brashear/Flickr/ Creative Commons
Meet Peter Thiel’s military industrial candidate

With $10 million of his boss’s money, Blake Masters could win the Senate and secure business for their border security and weapons investments.

On Monday, Blake Masters announced he is challenging Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) for his Senate seat on Twitter with a campaign commercial portraying himself as a working class hero pushing back against corporate and political elites who have sold out everyday Americans. 

“We are up against a media that lies to us, schools that teach our kids to hate our country, and corporations that have gotten so big, they think they’re bigger than America,” said Masters, who also warns that generals “prioritize social issues like transgenderism in the enlisted ranks over actually winning wars.” Meanwhile, he’s promoting a foreign policy that is “tough on actual threats like China.”

But Masters, who is running as a Republican, has crafted a political persona and campaign that also stands to financially benefit his employer and top campaign funder, Peter Thiel, who contributed $10 million to a super PAC supporting Masters’ candidacy.

Masters works directly for Thiel, serving as chief operating officer of Thiel Capital —Thiel’s investment firm — and the Thiel Foundation. His campaign website prominently promotes issues that would directly benefit Thiel’s investments in border security technology and defense contractors with an eye to a cold war-style competition with China.

“We need to completely end illegal immigration using every tool at hand: physical walls, surveillance technology, thousands more border patrol agents, and mandatory E-Verify for employers,” says Masters’ campaign website.

Steering federal contracts to various border security measures would create a nice synergy with Thiel’s investments. Thiel’s Founder’s Fund is invested in the border and military surveillance company Anduril, valuing the company at $1 billion,” notes The Verge.

Anduril has extensive contracts with the Department of Defense, but its first government contracts were with the border patrol to put up as many as 200 autonomous surveillance towers. This was aa “program of record” with the Customs and Border Protection, meaning “it’s essential enough to have a dedicated line of funding from Congress, and that towers would operate 24 hours a day, independent of the electrical grid,” according to Bloomberg. Last September, Anduril secured a $36 million contract from Customs and Border Protection following a $25 million contract the previous July,  part of an ongoing contract worth more than $200 million.  

And that isn’t Thiel’s only investment that profits off a highly militarized and highly surveilled southern border. Palantir Technologies, a $20 billion data-analytics firm founded by Thiel, has ongoing contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for technology including software used in support of the Trump administration’s controversial detention, deportation, and family-separation policies.  

On the foreign policy front, Thiel and Masters are well positioned to profit from an increasingly hostile U.S.-China relationship. Anduril’s founder, Palmer Luckey, heavily focuses on securing contracts with the Department of Defense and blasts fellow tech executives for being wary about partnering with the military, particularly on projects that could fan the flames of tensions with Beijing.

“China has done an incredible job of using the blocking of access to their markets as a tool to get the culture of western democracies to subvert itself to China,” said Luckey in December.

“They don’t have to come after us militarily,” he added. “They don’t have to cut our networks. All they have to do is invest in our companies, do partnerships with our companies… and then everybody bends over for them.”

On Twitter, Luckey is even more outspoken, warning that China and Russia are “expansionist powers hell-bent on consuming democratic nations near and far.”

Masters and his employer have a clear profit incentive to steer taxpayer funds to high-tech border surveillance and push for military competition with China, even while embracing populist positions like, “American people have made clear that we need to end our pointless interventions abroad and focus on our problems at home.”

Unfortunately, Masters’ professional career appears to be deeply intertwined with hyping the threat on the U.S.-Mexico border and from Beijing, and his employer and campaign funder, Peter Thiel, has a huge financial incentive to secure public funds for AI, drones and border security contracts, placing both of them at the nexus of a new branch of the military industrial complex with ties to AI, Silicon Valley and high-technology.

Thiel, it seems, has found the perfect candidate to advance his taxpayer funded business interests.

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