Trump's Single Biggest Donor, Robert Mercer, Has a Merciless Political Agenda
"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." —Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist
The publicity-shy, Trump-supporting, secretive multi-billionaire hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer is a man you wouldn't recognize on the subway, in a supermarket check-out line, or be able to pick out of a line-up. Now, he is finally getting what he has avoided for years; the glare of the public spotlight. A rash of recent articles has unmasked the New York City-based hedge-fund phenomenon. And while Mercer is being reluctantly drawn out of the shadows, his daughter Rebekah, who chaired Mercer's super PAC, Make America Number 1, urged Trump to bring Bannon onto his campaign staff, and subsequently played an important role on Trump's transition team, may be getting over the family's aversion to the limelight.
In late February, The Guardian's Carole Cadwalladr pointed out in a piece titled "Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media," that not only was Mercer "Trump's single biggest donor" (although he apparently originally supported Ted Cruz), he is the money behind a host of major right-wing entities and operations.
Let's go back a bit: According to Cadwalladr, Mercer, a math genius and computer scientist, "started his career at IBM, where he made what the Association for Computational Linguistics called 'revolutionary' breakthroughs in language processing – a science that went on to be key in developing today's AI – and later became joint CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund that makes its money by using algorithms to model and trade on the financial markets."
Cadwalladr noted that Medallion, one of Mercer's funds, "which manages only its employees' money, is the most successful in the world – generating $55bn so far. And since 2010, Mercer has donated $45m to different political campaigns – all Republican – and another $50m to non-profits – all rightwing, ultra-conservative."
And while the multi-billionaire is rather generously spreading his wealth to numerous ultra-right and conservative organizations and institutions, he doesn't hedge on his own personal rewards, which includes a "series of yachts," and "a $2.9m model train set" for starters.
However, it is in the realm of political giving that Mercer has become the current king of the roost. In his attempt to reshape the landscape of American politics, Mercer has donated millions to L. Brent Bozell's Media Research Center, where its CNSNews site has been pursuing defanging the "liberal" news media strategy for decades; is chief among donors to The Heartland Institute, one of the major climate change denial think tanks; and, gave $10 million to Steve Bannon to help get the Breitbart news site on solid financial footing. Mercer had also bankrolled some of Bannon's film projects.
According to Cadwalladr, Breitbart is "the 29th most popular site in America with 2 billion 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. "
What also drives Mercer is his apparent hatred for all things Clinton, both Bill and Hillary. According to piece by Nathan Reiff posted on Investopedia, Mercer had a key role in publishing "Clinton Cash," the best-selling book that "investigated various financial dealings made by Hillary Clinton and her family and inspired many of the attacks that Donald Trump issued in the presidential campaign season." Mercer gave $1.7 million of the $2.6 million needed by the Florida-based, Steve Bannon-founded Government Accountability Institute, to publish the book. "Clinton Cash" was written by Peter Schweizer, who is also the president of the Government Accountability Institute.
Mercer's Connection to Data Analytics
Cadwalladr's interest in Mercer also revolves around "his connection to Cambridge Analytica, a small data analytics company. … [in which] [h]e is reported to have a $10m stake…" The company "was spun out of a bigger British company called SCL Group, … [which] specializes in 'election management strategies' and 'messaging and information operations,' refined over 25 years in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. In military circles this is known as 'psyops' – psychological operations."
Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the campaign of Ted Cruz before switching to Trump, also worked the Leave side during the Brexit campaign. Late last year, Cadwalladr wrote about Cambridge Analytica while reporting "about how Google's search results on certain subjects were being dominated by rightwing and extremist sites. Jonathan Albright, a professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, who had mapped the news ecosystem and found millions of links between rightwing sites 'strangling' the mainstream media, told me that 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."
Mercer invested in Cambridge Analytica, the Washington Post reported, "driven in part by an assessment that the right was lacking sophisticated technology capabilities." According to "Democracy Now's" Nermeen Shaikh, "Cambridge Analytica, … claims it has psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters."
Mercer also has developed a close friendship with Nigel Farage, the anti-immigration, on-again-off-again leader of the UK Independence Party, and a major player in the Leave.eu campaign. Farage was the first foreign politician to meet president-elect Trump.
In a "Democracy Now" interview with Jane Mayer, author of a recent New Yorker piece titled "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America's populist insurgency" it was pointed out that these days, it is said about Mercer and his daughter that they "out-Koched the Koch brothers in the 2016 election."
"Since the election," Democracy Now's Amy Goodman pointed out, "Rebekah Mercer joined the Trump transition team, and Robert Mercer threw a victory party of sorts at his Long Island estate. It was a hero and villain's costume party. Kellyanne Conway showed up as Superwoman. Donald Trump showed up as himself."