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Foster Friess brings unwanted attention to Rice Lake

Foster Friess popped up on the public’s radar recently when he offered his prescription for birth control to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell: “Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,” he said. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

The meaning, of course, was that if women held an aspirin between their legs, they would be unable to open them.

While Friess is just now getting his first turn in the public spotlight, the multi-millionaire has been on the radar of political types for some time. A self-described “born again” Christian, he’s not only the biggest backer of anti-gay GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, but also one of Gov. Scott Walker’s biggest backers. To date, Friess has donated $104,600 to Walker’s recall campaign.

Although Friess, 71, now wears a cowboy hat, he’s a native cheesehead. Born in Rice Lake, Wis., he attended UW-Madison before moving to the East Coast. He made his fortune after he and wife Lynn Friess founded the company Friess Associates. The company spawned the Brandywine Fund, named by Forbes magazine as of the 1990’s top mutual funds.

Forbes spent many years in Delaware and Pennsylvania before moving to Wyoming, because he said state taxes there are cheaper.

Although he left Wisconsin decades ago, Friess continues to support his hometown. He is the principal donor of the Friess Family Community Campus at Rice Lake High School. The $3.7-million complex includes football, baseball, softball fields, and a track.

LGBT activist and Rice Lake native Jason Rae, 25, said he’s “disappointed that I come from a hometown where we have an athletic facility named after a man supporting one of the most discriminatory candidates for president that we’ve seen in a long time.”

Rae said Rice Lake is evolving into a more tolerant place to live than it was when he was growing up. “I think it’s on its way to being a very tolerant place. It’s a city that’s made great progress, and people are concerned about how it’s being portrayed now,” in the wake of all the attention Friess is receiving.

Rice Lake is 97-percent white and has a median household income of $32,808. Friess is estimated to be worth more than $500 million.

In the same interview in which he made his now-famous comment about the use of aspirin, Friess told Mitchell that a man recently approached him at his “country club” and said that Santorum is too extreme for opposing same-sex marriage.

Friess responded: “So I said to this guy, ‘You know, through the beginning of time, not just the major religions but various African tribal people have said man is marrying a woman. At what point in your life did that suddenly become an extreme idea?’ Well, obviously, he couldn’t answer. So the whole idea of extremism, it’s kind of a bizarre terminology for someone that believes marriage is between a man and a woman. Why is that extreme?”

In the past, Friess has blamed liberals for the 1999 school shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

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