Monaghan’s State-Based Focus

The Naples Daily News profiles Tom Monaghan, the founder of Dominos Pizza and ultra-right-wing Catholic activist behind the Thomas More Law Center and Ave Maria University who even built his own town where he could implement his hardcore beliefs.

Though he is not particularly well-known, Monaghan is a right-wing powerbroker and moneyman who early-on backed Sam Brownback until his campaign ended early in the primary season.  He has since gone on to endorse Romney and ultimately McCain, but this election cycle has focused primarily on financing the state races of candidates who share his right-wing views:

Monaghan and his wife have given $4,600 to Tom Rooney, a 37-year-old Republican running for Congress in Florida’s 16th District, which dances across the state’s middle from Port Charlotte to Port St. Lucie.

Rooney, the grandson of the Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, is Catholic and anti-abortion. He’s a member of Legatus and Rooney’s brother, Brian, is the national spokesman for the Thomas More Law Center.

Monaghan’s contribution to Rooney came last December, as he was starting out a bitter three-way primary he won by 2 percentage points in August.

“That support was very crucial,” said Jeff Ostermayer, Rooney’s campaign spokesman.

The type of campaign Rooney is in — long, competitive and expensive — exemplifies where Monaghan is spending his money. His three top donations this election cycle are in races expected to be close calls come November: Rooney’s, the open Senate election in Colorado and an open House seat in Northern Virginia.  

But just because he tends to operate behind the scenes doesn’t mean he is averse to confrontation or controversy: 

Seven years ago, Tom Monaghan attended the opening of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., a $65 million think tank and museum dedicated to the Catholic faith. Near Monaghan sat Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., whose family has embodied Catholic politics in the United States for more than 50 years.

After the dedicatory speech in which President George W. Bush praised the Pope’s defense of a “culture of life,” Monaghan confronted Kennedy. How, Monaghan asked, could Kennedy be a Catholic and support abortion rights?

“We were walking away from the ceremony and he kind of sat beside me, a little bit behind me,” Monaghan said recently. “I turned around and looked at him. He acknowledged me, so I thought I had to say something. So I said what was on my mind.”

Kennedy, Monaghan said, didn’t respond.

Monaghan “really stuck it to him,” said Deal Hudson, a prominent Catholic Republican operative and longtime Monaghan confidante who witnessed the encounter.