David Barton, an influential Christian author and activist, is taking charge of the leading super-PAC supporting Ted Cruz.
The super-PAC, Keep the Promise PAC, is the umbrella for a group of related pro-Cruz political committees that raised $38 million in the first half of the year, more than the super-PACs supporting any other candidate with the exception of Jeb Bush.
"From the outset, the Keep the Promise PACs made their mission to provide a voice for the millions of courageous conservatives who are looking to change the direction of the country," Keep the Promise PAC said in a statement today. "Barton's involvement is an important step signaling that the effort will not be run by a D.C. consultant but by a grassroots activist."
Barton's appointment highlights the role that evangelical Christians are playing in the Cruz campaign. The Texas senator is the son of a preacher and announced his presidential bid at Liberty University, a Christian institution founded by the televangelist Jerry Falwell.
Barton is a self-taught historian, former school administrator and the founder of Wallbuilders, a group dedicated to the idea that the U.S. was established as a Christian nation and should embrace those roots. Time Magazine named him one of the country's top 25 most influential evangelicals in 2005.
His 2012 book about Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Lies, was withdrawn by its publisher after being denounced by some mainstream academics as full of errors. Barton has dismissed such criticisms as politically motivated and has remained influential on the religious right. He spoke last month at a huge rally in Alabama organized by the conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck.
A former vice chairman of the Texas Republican party, Barton has served as an informal adviser to several politicians in the past, including Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich.
Barton succeeds Toby Neugebauer, the co-founder of a Houston private-equity firm, Quantum Energy Partners, and a key Keep the Promise donor. In the statement, Neugebauer said he will remain involved with the super-PACs but that it had grown impractical to fulfill his leadership duties from his home in Puerto Rico.
Neugebauer helped jump-start the Keep the Promise super-PACs' fundraising in April with a $10 million check. Most of the rest of the money came from the families of Farris and Dan Wilks, brothers from Cisco, Texas who made a fortune in the fracking boom, and who gave $15 million in all; and from Robert Mercer, a Long Island scientist who is the co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, one of the world's most successful quantitative hedge funds. Mercer gave $11 million.
Farris Wilks is a pastor at his church in Cisco, and his family has supported a large number of Christian groups, including Barton's Wallbuilders. Neugebauer directs some of his philanthropic giving through the Matthew 6:20 Foundation, named after the biblical verse: "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal."