Robert Mercer

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Robert Mercer

Robert Leroy Mercer is one of two "blow-it-all-up billionaires" behind President Donald Trump's rise to power in 2016, according to multiple news reports. He was a key funder not only of Trump, but also of institutions that helped put him in office. He is a computer scientist and the co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies LLC, an American investment management firm, and was a stakeholder during the 2016 presidential election in Cambridge Analytica, a UK data mining firm that obtained Facebook data to help influence the November 2016 U.S. presidential election and the June 2016 British "Brexit" campaign.[1][2][3][4][5] Cambridge Analytica's activities were subject to multiple investigations in 2018 including Bob Mueller's special council investigation of Russian influence on the U.S. elections, a formal U.S. Federal Election Commission investigation and multitple UK investigations of the company's efforts to obtain Facebook data which could be a violation of EU privacy law.

Mercer is also a key funder of and stakeholder in Breitbart News and other projects spearheaded by Steve Bannon. Through the Mercer Family Foundation, he is a key funder of right-wing groups and causes including Richard Berman and his anti-union Center for Union Facts and the Heartland Institute, which peddles climate change denial.

The Mercer family are primary investors in the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, which has a 71.8 percent annual return and has aided the campaigns of many prominent Republican candidates; and is heavily invested in Cambridge Analytica, a privately held company that combines data mining, analysis, and strategic communications and uses "psychographic" models to target voters based on their personality.[5]

Bob Mercer's daughter, Rebekah Mercer, is an influential right-wing figure. She heads the pro-Donald Trump super PAC "Make America Number 1" and was part of Trump's transition team.[6][7]

"The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution," Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon told the New Yorker. "Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs."[2] Mercer was the eighth largest individual contributor during the 2016 election cycle, spending a known $25 million (other contributions may not be known), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.[8] When the Kochs and other right-wing funders spurned Trump during the campaign, the Mercer family stepped up, playing an instrumental role.

The Trump presidential campaign first hired Kellyane Conway as a pollster at Robert (Bob) and Rebekah Mercer's urging, then "recommended that Trump bring in Bannon to lead a reorganized effort," according to The New Yorker. Bannon reportedly told Trump, "I'd only do this if Kellyanne came in as my partner."[9]

News and Controversies

Channel News 4 Investigation of Cambridge Analytica's "Dirty Tricks"

Just a few days after reports of misused Facebook data, Cambridge Analytica was accused of engaging in various unethical practices to further client interests. Channel 4 News in the UK engaged in an undercover operation posing as a representative for a wealthy Sri Lankan family interested in securing political influence in the UK. The journalist recorded an exchange with Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix who answered questions about various “dirt tricks.” Nix stated the firm employs former British and Israeli spies to uncover damaging information about a client’s political opponents and entrap targets with fake bribes. Nix also alluded to hiring prostitutes to seduce political opponents and create additional damaging information. To hide its involvement, Cambridge Analytica would use fake names and shell companies. Operatives would often work in different countries, including the United States, without proper visas and documentation in order to hide the true intention of their activities. In his defense, Nix state he was mere “humoring” the questions posed by the undercover investigator and Cambridge Analytica does not use any unethical practices.[10]

Observer Reports of Facebook Data Misuse by Mercer's Cambridge Analytica

In March 2018, the UK news outlet Observer (also known as the Guardian) reported that Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained Facebook profile information to build a system which could target 50 million social media users with personalized political advertisements. The information was obtained when Facebook users signed up for a personality test app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” However, the app also collected the information of the users’ Facebook friends, leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong. This data formed the basis of targeted political ads Cambridge Analytica used by both the Trump campaign and pro-Brexit forces. The data breach is the subject of separate inquiries in both the British Information Commissioner’s Office, which is studying the issue as part of an ongoing investigation on data analytics for political purposes and the British Electoral Commission. In America, Cambridge Analytica’s data theft is under investigation by the Attorney General of Massachusetts and has drawn scrutiny from Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), who has proposed an Honest Ads Act to regulate online political advertising the same way as television, radio and print.[11]

CNN Reports Mueller Russia Investigation Looking at Trump Data Operation that Used Staff and Services from Cambridge Analytica

The FBI's criminal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election turned its focus to "the Trump campaign's 2016 data analytics operation," according to CNN in May 2017. "Federal investigators have been taking a closer look at the Trump campaign's data analytics operation, which was supervised by Kushner, officials say, and are examining whether Russian operatives used people associated with the campaign -- wittingly or unwittingly -- to try to help Russia's own data targeting" reported CNN. [12]

That operation "employed staff from Cambridge Analytica," according to the San Antonio Express-News.[13]

The Trump campaign's digital operation was run out of San Antonio. The "operation relied heavily on Facebook both for targeting voters and fundraising, Parscale has said, noting that Facebook helped the campaign raise more than $260 million. Along with RNC operatives dispatched to San Antonio, the operation employed staff from Cambridge Analytica, the U.S.-based offshoot of a British company that deploys what it calls 'psychographics,' research using personality, values and other voter traits for targeting. Cambridge was paid $6 million for its work, which Republican operatives described as voter persuasion. BusinessWeek quoted an unnamed member of the Trump campaign staff late in the campaign as saying that their digital operation used Facebook ads and other means to suppress Clinton's vote totals with negative messages aimed at African-Americans, young women and segments of liberals," according to the San Antonio Express-News.[14]

In October 2017, CNN reported, "A number of Russian-linked Facebook ads specifically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two states crucial to Donald Trump's victory last November, according to four sources with direct knowledge of the situation. Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said."[15]

The Guardian reported in late September 2017 that David Carroll, an associate professor at Parsons School of Design in New York, had sued Cambridge Analytica "using British laws to try to discover how he was profiled and potentially targeted by the Trump campaign. Carroll reportedly "ask[ed] for his personal data back from the company, and when it failed to supply it, he started filing pre-trial actions to sue the company under British law.... He reported the firm to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office, which is investigating the use of data in political campaigning..."[16]

Cambridge Analytica, "Psychological Warfare" and "Disengagement," a Technique to Dissuade Voters from Turning Out

Before becoming a White House advisor, Steve Bannon was a vice-president and part owner of Cambridge Analytica, a subsidiary of the British firm called SLC Group, according to White House disclosure documents.[17] News reports indicate that Robert Mercer is also an investor in the company, with a $10 million stake.[18]

SCL Group calls itself a "global election management agency" known for its involvement "in military disinformation campaigns to social media branding and voter targeting".[19][20] SCL's involvement in the political world has been primarily in the developing world, where it has been used by the military and politicians to study and manipulate public opinion and political will. Slate reporting has compared one of SCL's hypothetical test scenarios to fomenting a coup.[21]

The Guardian published a story in May 2017 titled "The Great British Brexit Robbery" -- the subject of legal complaints on behalf of Cambridge Analytica LLC and SCL Elections Limited (Cambridge Analytica's parent group) -- describing how Cambridge Analytica was reportedly a tool born out of the military industrial complex, meant to carry out psychological warfare:[5]

"This is not just a story about social psychology and data analytics. It has to be understood in terms of a military contractor using military strategies on a civilian population. Us. David Miller, a professor of sociology at Bath University and an authority in psyops and propaganda, says it is 'an extraordinary scandal that this should be anywhere near a democracy. It should be clear to voters where information is coming from, and if it's not transparent or open where it's coming from, it raises the question of whether we are actually living in a democracy or not.'...
"Finding 'persuadable' voters is key for any campaign and with its treasure trove of data, Cambridge Analytica could target people high in neuroticism, for example, with images of immigrants 'swamping' the country. The key is finding emotional triggers for each individual voter....
"Cambridge Analytica worked on campaigns in several key states for a Republican political action committee. Its key objective, according to a memo the Observer has seen, was 'voter disengagement' and 'to persuade Democrat voters to stay at home': a profoundly disquieting tactic."[5]

In an earlier February 2017 story, The Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr reported:[22]

"Cambridge Analytica... did not answer other questions the Observer put to it this week about how it built its psychometric model, which owes its origins to original research carried out by scientists at Cambridge University's Psychometric Centre, research based on a personality quiz on Facebook that went viral. More than 6 million people ended up doing it, producing an astonishing treasure trove of data....
"But there are strict ethical regulations regarding what you can do with this data. Did SCL Group have access to the university's model or data, I ask Professor Jonathan Rust, the centre's director? 'Certainly not from us,' he says. 'We have very strict rules around this.'
"A scientist, Aleksandr Kogan, from the centre was contracted to build a model for SCL, and says he collected his own data. Professor Rust says he doesn't know where Kogan's data came from. 'The evidence was contrary. I reported it.' An independent adjudicator was appointed by the university. 'But then Kogan said he'd signed a non-disclosure agreement with SCL and he couldn't continue [answering questions].'"[22]

Professor Rust told The Guardian that, in his opinion:[22]

"The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. It's what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. It's how you brainwash someone. It's incredibly dangerous.
"It's no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don't know it's happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs."[22]

Cambridge Analytica's parent group, SCL Group, strategizes the technological tools Cambridge Analytica has to effect behavioral and psychological changes, The Guardian reports:[22]

"Emma Briant, a propaganda specialist at the University of Sheffield, wrote about SCL Group... 'There are different arms of SCL but it's all about reach and the ability to shape the discourse. They are trying to amplify particular political narratives. And they are selective in who they go for: they are not doing this for the left.'
"In the course of the US election, Cambridge Analytica amassed a database, as it claims on its website, of almost the entire US voting population -- 220 million people -- and the Washington Post reported last week that SCL was increasing staffing at its Washington office and competing for lucrative new contracts with Trump's administration. 'It seems significant that a company involved in engineering a political outcome profits from what follows. Particularly if it's the manipulation, and then resolution, of fear,' says Briant.
"It's the database, and what may happen to it, that particularly exercises Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a Swiss mathematician and data activist who has been investigating Cambridge Analytica and SCL for more than a year. 'How is it going to be used?' he says. 'Is it going to be used to try and manipulate people around domestic policies? Or to ferment conflict between different communities? It is potentially very scary. People just don't understand the power of this data and how it can be used against them.'
"There are two things, potentially, going on simultaneously: the manipulation of information on a mass level, and the manipulation of information at a very individual level. Both based on the latest understandings in science about how people work, and enabled by technological platforms built to bring us together....
"Bio-psycho-social profiling, I read later, is one offensive in what is called 'cognitive warfare.'"[22]

Cambridge Analytica Offered to Help Wikileaks Release Clinton Emails

From CBS News: “Julian Assange, editor of Wikileaks, said Wikileaks was approached by data firm Cambridge Analytica in 2016 about potentially working together about the release of Hillary Clinton's deleted emails. Cambridge Analytica's CEO Alexander Nix, the Wall Street Journal first reported, was emailed by Trump donor Rebekah Mercer asking if they might be able to better organize the release of Hillary Clinton emails by Wikileaks.” According to Assange their help was declined.

CNN reports: "Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, sent an email to several people including top Donald Trump donor Rebekah Mercer, relaying that he had emailed Assange seeking access to emails from Clinton's private server to turn them into a searchable database for the campaign or a pro-Trump political action committee, two of the sources said."

Mercers Bankrolled Donald Trump's Presidential Campaign

Mercer family political and business adviser Steve Bannon told The New Yorker, "The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs."[2]

Investigative journalist Vicky Ward reported, "If Trump was an unexpected victor, the Mercers were unexpected kingmakers. More established names in Republican politics, such as the Kochs and Paul Singer, had sat out the general election. But the Mercers had committed millions of dollars to a campaign that often seemed beyond salvaging."[1]

And significantly, as The New Yorker reported, "The Mercers' investment in Breitbart[.com] enabled [Steve] Bannon to promote anti-establishment politicians whom the mainstream media dismissed, including Trump.... 'Breitbart gave Trump a big role,' Sam Nunberg, the aide who worked on the early stages of Trump's campaign, has said. 'They gave us an outlet. No one else would. It allowed us to define our narrative and communicate our message....'"[2]

Robert Mercer and his wife Diana contributed at least $21 million individually to Republican and conservative candidates and super PACs/outside groups (including the family's super PAC, "Make America Number 1," which supported Ted Cruz in the primary and then Donald Trump in the general election) in the 2016 election cycle, according to data analyzed by the Center for Media and Democracy.[23]

Trump Campaign Hired Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway at Mercer's Urging

The Trump presidential campaign first hired Kellyane Conway as a pollster at Robert and Rebekah Mercer's urging, then "recommended that Trump bring in Bannon to lead a reorganized effort," according to The New Yorker. Bannon reportedly told Trump, "I'd only do this if Kellyanne came in as my partner."[9]

The Wall Street Journal reported in February 2017 that Mercer and his daughter "suggest[ed] the installation of two Mercer family confidantes, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway..."[24]

Cambridge Analytica Aided Pro-Brexit Campaign in U.K.

"Behind Trump's campaign and Cambridge Analytica," Pro-Brexit Leave.EU's communications director Andy Wigmore told The Guardian, were "the same people. It's the same family." In February 2017, The Guardian revealed that Cambridge Analytica, owned in part by Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, had provided free expert advice to the Leave campaign on its Facebook voter-targeting efforts:[22]

"The communications director of, Andy Wigmore, told the Observer that the longstanding friendship between Nigel Farage and the Mercer family led Mercer to offer his help -- free -- to the Brexit campaign because of their shared goals. Wigmore said that he introduced Farage and to Cambridge Analytica: 'They were happy to help. Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers. And Mercer introduced them to us. He said, 'Here's this company we think may be useful to you.' What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information.'
"The strategy involved harvesting data from people's Facebook and other social media profiles and then using machine learning to 'spread' through their networks. Wigmore admitted the technology and the level of information it gathered from people was 'creepy.' He said the campaign used this information, combined with artificial intelligence, to decide who to target with highly individualised advertisements and had built a database of more than a million people, based on advice Cambridge Analytica supplied. Two weeks ago Arron Banks,'s founder, stated in a series of tweets that Gerry Gunster ('s pollster) and Cambridge Analytica with 'world class' AI had helped them gain 'unprecedented levels of engagement.' 'AI won it for Leave,' he said.
"By law, all donations of services-in-kind worth more than £7,500 must be reported to the electoral commission. A spokesman said that no donation from the company or Mercer to had been filed."[22]

But the Mercers and Cambridge Analytica may have also influenced the Brexit campaign in another way, according to news reports. According to The Telegraph on February 24, 2017:[25]

"AggregateIQ (AIQ), a technology company operating out of a tiny office above an opticians in a provincial Canadian city, was given £3.5 million by Leave campaigners in the run up to last year's EU vote -- equivalent to more than ten per cent of the £32 million spent by both sides during the campaign.
"According to the Electoral Commission figures, no other company or individual was handed more cash during the referendum battle, with the official Vote Leave group spending 40 per cent of its £6.8 million budget on the firm....
"Vote Leave officials said the company had been 'instrumental' in securing an Out vote in last June's referendum, after developing sophisticated models to relentlessly hone the campaign's online message."

"How did an obscure Canadian company come to play such a pivotal role in Brexit?" The Guardian asked. Here is what Guardian reporter Carole Cadwalladr reportedly found:[5]

"AggregateIQ holds the key to unravelling another complicated network of influence that Mercer has created. A source emailed me to say he had found that AggregateIQ's address and telephone number corresponded to a company listed on Cambridge Analytica's website as its overseas office: 'SCL Canada.' A day later, that online reference vanished."[5]

A former Cambridge Analytica employee pointed Cadwalladr towards Chris Wylie, calling him "the one who brought data and micro-targeting [individualised political messages] to Cambridge Analytica. And he's from west Canada. It's only because of him that AggregateIQ exist. They're his friends. He's the one who brought them in." The two companies were "were intimately entwined, key nodes in Robert Mercer's distributed empire. 'The Canadians were our back office. They built our software for us. They held our database. If AggregateIQ is involved then Cambridge Analytica is involved. And if Cambridge Analytica is involved, then Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon are involved.'" But Wylie refused to comment.[5]

But The Guardian found another connection:[5]

"A project that Cambridge Analytica carried out in Trinidad in 2013 brings all the elements in this story together. Just as Robert Mercer began his negotiations with SCL boss Alexander Nix about an acquisition, SCL was retained by several government ministers in Trinidad and Tobago. The brief involved developing a micro-targeting programme for the governing party of the time. And AggregateIQ -- the same company involved in delivering Brexit for Vote Leave -- was brought in to build the targeting platform."[5]

And apparently, "during the US primary elections, Aggregate IQ signed away its intellectual property (IP). It didn't own its IP: Robert Mercer did," The Guardian reported.[5]

Mercer is a Central Figure in Right-Wing Propaganda Network

Jonathan Albright, a professor of communications at Elon University in North Carolina, told The Guardian that Mercer's Cambridge Analytica is a central point in the right's "propaganda machine" (in reference to its work for both the Trump election campaign and the Brexit/"Vote Leave" campaign in the UK). He alleged that companies like Cambridge Analytica are "targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It's a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They're capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go."[26]

The Guardian reported:

"The technology that was supposed to set us free may well have helped Trump to power, or covertly helped swing votes for Brexit. It has created a vast network of propaganda that has encroached like a cancer across the entire internet. This is a technology that has enabled the likes of Cambridge Analytica to create political messages uniquely tailored to you. They understand your emotional responses and how to trigger them. They know your likes, dislikes, where you live, what you eat, what makes you laugh, what makes you cry."[26]

Media Research Center

In a follow-up article, The Guardian reported that the Media Research Center (MRC) -- funded by the Mercers -- is also a critical part of this "propaganda machine."[22][27] The Mercer Family Foundation gave MRC $13.5 million from 2008 to 2014, according to the Washington Post's analysis of its tax records, making it one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Mercers' largess.[3]

The MRC operates a number of subsidiary projects, including the Business & Media Institute (formerly known as the the Free Market Project);, a conservative news service; the NewsBusters blog; TimesWatch, a website focusing on the New York Times; the Culture and Media Institute; and the MRC Action Team (see the Sourcewatch article on MRC for more).

Bannon Co-Founded Government Accountability Institute with Mercer Funding

The Mercer Family Foundation gave a large sum -- $3,735,000 -- to the Government Accountability Institute from 2013 to 2015.[28][29][30] It is a right-wing organization founded by Steve Bannon with deep ties to the "alt right" network, such as Citizens United,, the American Conservative Union, the Young America's Foundation, and the Hoover Institution, through its key staff and board members. Rebekah Mercer is the chair of its board as of September 2017 and has been on its board since 2012, according to The New Yorker.[31][2]

A Guardian article reported:[22]

"How do you change the way a nation thinks? You could start by creating a mainstream media to replace the existing one with a site such as Breitbart. You could set up other websites that displace mainstream sources of news and information with your own definitions of concepts like 'liberal media bias,' like And you could give the rump mainstream media, papers like the 'failing New York Times!' what it wants: stories. Because the third prong of Mercer and Bannon's media empire is the Government Accountability Institute.
"Bannon co-founded it with $2m of Mercer's money. Mercer's daughter, Rebekah, was appointed to the board. Then they invested in expensive, long-term investigative journalism.... Welcome to the future of journalism in the age of platform capitalism. News organisations have to do a better job of creating new financial models. But in the gaps in between, a determined plutocrat and a brilliant media strategist can, and have, found a way to mould journalism to their own ends.
"In 2015, Steve Bannon described to Forbes how the GAI operated, employing a data scientist to trawl the dark web (in the article he boasts of having access to $1.3bn worth of supercomputers) to dig up the kind of source material Google can't find....
"This, Bannon explained, is how you 'weaponise' the narrative you want. With hard researched facts. With those, you can launch it straight on to the front page of the New York Times, as the story of Hillary Clinton's cash did. Like Hillary's emails it turned the news agenda, and, most crucially, it diverted the attention of the news cycle. Another classic psyops approach. 'Strategic drowning' of other messages....
"And whether it's Mercer's millions or other factors, Jonathan Albright's map of the news and information ecosystem shows how rightwing sites are dominating sites like YouTube and Google, bound tightly together by millions of links."[22]

Mercer "One of the Main Stakeholders" in Breitbart News

In June 2011, Mercer invested $10 million in Breitbart News "in exchange for a large stake," according to The New Yorker. The investment "was made through Gravitas Maximus, L.L.C., a front group that once had the same Long Island address as Renaissance Technologies." It made Mercer "one of the main stakeholders" in the suddenly-growing alternative media network, which since then has grown from "little more than a collection of blogs" to having "the most shared political content on Facebook [in 2016], giving the Mercers a platform that no other conservative donors could match."[2]

Breitbart News confirmed to the Washington Post in February 2017 that members of the Mercer family co-own the organization along with Andrew Breitbart's widow, Susannah, and Breitbart's president and CEO, Larry Solov.[32]

With the Mercers' cash influx, The Guardian reports, Breitbart has become "phenomenally successful: the 29th most popular site in America with 2bn page views a year. It's bigger than its inspiration, the Huffington Post, bigger, even, than PornHub. It's the biggest political site on Facebook. The biggest on Twitter." And "trackers from sites like Breitbart could also be used by companies like Cambridge Analytica to follow people around the web and then, via Facebook, target them with ads."[22]

Mercer Meets Breitbart and Bannon

President-elect Trump's campaign was led by three close associates who ran Mercer-funded enterprises: former Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon (who has also served as the family's political adviser), pollster Kellyanne Conway, and Citizens United President David Bossie.[3]

The Mercer family met Andrew Breitbart, the founder of, at a Club for Growth conference in 2011, according to The New Yorker.[2] He had just given a speech "about how to co-opt the political strategies used by liberals," according to the '"Washington Post.[3] Breitbart introduced them to Steve Bannon, who became their adviser.

Later that year, Bannon "drafted a business plan for the Mercers that called for them to invest ten million dollars in Breitbart News, in exchange for a large stake."[2]

According to The New Yorker:[2]

"Under Bannon's leadership, the Web site expanded dramatically, adding a fleet of full-time writers. It became a new force on the right, boosting extreme insurgents against the G.O.P. establishment, such as David Brat, who, in 2014, took the seat of Eric Cantor, the Virginia congressman. But it also provided a public forum for previously shunned white-nationalist, sexist, and racist voices....
"By 2016, Breitbart News claims, it had the most shared political content on Facebook, giving the Mercers a platform that no other conservative donors could match. Rebekah Mercer is highly engaged with Breitbart's content. An insider there said, 'She reads every story, and calls when there are grammatical errors or typos.' Though she doesn't dictate a political line to the editors, she often points out areas of coverage that she thinks require more attention....
"The Mercers' investment in Breitbart enabled Bannon to promote anti-establishment politicians whom the mainstream media dismissed, including Trump.... 'Breitbart gave Trump a big role,' Sam Nunberg, the aide who worked on the early stages of Trump's campaign, has said."[2]

Bannon also founded the Government Accountability Institute and Reclaim New York with Mercer's money.[2][22][33] Together, the Mercers and Bannon co-founded their film production company Glittering Steel. And Bannon has been on the board of the Mercer-funded Cambridge Analytica.[3]

According to the Washington Post, the Mercers' "alliance with Bannon provided fuel for the narrative that drove Trump’s victory: that dangerous immigrants are ruining the country and corrupt power brokers are sabotaging Washington. The wealthy New York family and the former investment banker-turned-media executive collaborated on at least five ventures between 2011 and 2016, according to a Washington Post review of public filings and multiple people familiar with their relationship."[3]

The Washington Post reported:[3]

"Through those projects, the Mercers and Bannon, now chief White House strategist, quietly built a power base aimed at sowing distrust of big government and eroding the dominance of the major news media. The Mercers provided the money, while Bannon, working in tandem with Rebekah, acted as business partner and political guide."[3]

Subject of Lawsuit Alleging Racially Charged Comments to Former Employee

Dave Magerman, a former research scientist with Mercer's hedge fund company Renaissance Technologies, sued Mercer for wrongful termination, alleging Mercer told him "the only racists in America were Blacks and that the country 'began to go in the wrong direction' following the Civil Rights Act's passage and that Blacks were doing fine before being afforded equal rights. Mercer also expressed his belief that giving Blacks equal rights the Civil Rights Act made them lazy and 'dependent on government and removing any incentive to work,' the lawsuit (Magerman v. Mercer, 17-cv-02083, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)) claimed. Additionally, Mercer allegedly said that whites have no hostility toward Blacks anymore, 'and if there is any, it is not something the government should be concerned with,' the filing claims Mercer said, according to DiversityInc.[34]

Magerman said he was suspended and then fired for speaking publicly about Mercer's political views. Mercer allegedly confronted Magerman for "going around saying I'm a white supremacist." Magerman then gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal on Mercer's political standpoint, and after the article was published, according to an update later addended to it online, "A representative told Mr. Magerman that he was being suspended without pay and no longer could have contact with the company."[24] Eventually, "at the direction of Mercer and in further retaliation for Magerman's criticism of Mercer's political activities and the causes he supports," Magerman was fired, DiversityInc reported.[34]

Later in early 2017, Magerman attended a celebrity poker tournament at which both Robert and Rebekah Mercer were present. According to a Bloomberg article citing Magerman's complaint, "Rebekah Mercer allegedly confronted Magerman, calling him 'pond scum' and saying karma 'is a bitch,' according to the complaint."[35]

Two days before Mercer was required to formally respond to the claims, Magerman "ended the suit without giving a reason or collecting a cent in a notice filed in federal court in Philadelphia on July 5," according to Bloomberg. His lawyer told the publication, "[W]e made a decision for reasons that I am not free to discus [sic] to discontinue the case without prejudice."[36]

Influencing Political Campaigns

2016 U.S. Presidential Primary: Ted Cruz

During the 2016 U.S. presidential primary election, the Mercers gave $11 million to the family's super PAC, "Make America Number 1," to support Sen. Ted Cruz.[2] Rebekah Mercer soon "wore out her welcome" with the Cruz campaign through her "withering critiques" of his debate performances, according to Politico. She also insisted that the campaign hire the family data firm, Cambridge Analytica.[37]

The Mercers (and their super PAC) switched their support to Donald Trump after Cruz dropped out of the race "rather than retreating to the sidelines as so many other big donors did" after Rebekah met with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, according to Politico.[37]

2017 Kenya Presidential Election

In 2017, Cambridge Analytica was hired by Kenya's incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee Party in the lead up to that country's controversial presidential election, according to the BBC.[38] That election was later nullified by the Kenyan Supreme Court, citing "irregularities," and a new election was ordered with 60 days of September 1, 2017.[39] The new election was eventually set for October 26, 2017.[40]

According to Fast Company:[41]

"Cambridge Analytica began its political work in Kenya in 2013. That's the same year it was launched, with funding from hedge fund CEO and conservative donor Robert Mercer. (Steve Bannon, former CEO of Breitbart News and now White House chief strategist, sat on Cambridge Analytica's board of directors until recently; he divested his holdings in the company in April.) With research and expertise from its parent company, U.K.-based political consultants SCL Group, Cambridge worked for Kenyatta and The National Alliance, the forerunner of the Jubilee Party, correlating online data with 47,000 on-the-ground surveys."

The firm was paid $6 million for its three months of work in Kenya in 2017, according to Privacy International.[42]

"[T]he death of Msando, the deportation of the Aristotle consultants, and the work of data-hungry Cambridge Analytica for the ruling party have raised concerns about the safety of personal data after the election," reports Fast Company.[41]

2018 Mexico Presidential Election

Cambridge Analytica partnered with the mobile app, mining data to help an as-yet undetermined candidate in the Mexican 2018 presidential election, Bloomberg reported in July 2017.[43]

Mercer Family Foundation

According to the Mercer Family Foundation's 2015 IRS Form 990 tax filing, the foundation granted $24,544,570 in 2015 and had a total of $22,729,081 in assets.[30] (The foundation's 2016 Form 990 is not yet publicly available as of the end of September 2017.)

The foundation granted $18,300,979 in 2014 and had a total of $33,733,845 in assets.[29]

The Mercer Family Foundation made the following contributions to right-wing organizations in 2015 (many of the groups are members of the State Policy Network):[30]

The Mercer Family Foundation granted nearly $58 million from 2008 to 2014, according to The Washington Post. Out of that total, "$36 million flowed to more than two dozen think tanks, policy groups and other nonprofits":[3]

Donations to think tanks and policy groups by the Mercer Family Foundation, 2008-2014 (TWP 3-17-17).png

The Mercer Family Foundation made the following contributions to right-wing organizations in 2014 (many of the groups are members of the State Policy Network):[29]

Mercer Support for Climate-Denying Heartland Institute

The Mercer Family Foundation gave the Heartland Institute -- which "has a long history of promoting 'alternative facts' about climate change as well as crank climate denialist theories that are far out of the mainstream scientific consensus," as Union of Concerned Scientists president Kenneth Kimmell has said -- more than $5 million between 2008 and 2015, according to tax filings analyzed as part of an exposé by The Washington Post in early 2017.[4]

Both Robert and Rebekah Mercer attended the 12th International Conference on Climate Change, hosted by The Heartland Institute in Washington, D.C. in March 2017, "where speakers denounced climate science as rigged and jubilantly touted deep cuts President Trump is seeking to make to the Environmental Protection Agency," joining Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast at his table. The Washington Post reported:[4]

"With Trump in office, the influential financiers appear intent on putting muscle behind the fight to roll back environmental regulations, a central focus of the new administration.... The Mercers' presence indicates that the wealthy family is continuing to support the work of the Heartland Institute -- a group that embraces views that have long been considered outlier positions by the scientific community, but that are ascendant in Trump's Washington.... Half a dozen Trump transition officials and administration advisers attended the gathering, including Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who headed Trump's EPA transition team.... But exactly where the Mercers stand on climate change -- and the scope of their environmental agenda -- remains a mystery."[4]

State Policy Network

The Mercer Family Foundation gave $100,000 to the State Policy Network itself in 2013 and 2014 and quite a bit of funding to SPN Members in 2014 and 2015 (see above).[28][29]

SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 48 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. As of June 2024, SPN's membership totals 167. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2022 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $152 million.[47] Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.[48]

In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"[49]

A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.[50]


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