Trump's Billionaire Backers Are Making a Massive Investment in Climate Denial

The Huffington Post reports that billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer are making a massive commitment to American ignorance by upping contributions to climate change denial.


The spending is notable not only for the large amounts, but because it seems to mark a shift in the world of climate-denial funding, which was once bolstered mainly by fossil fuel titans like Koch Industries and Exxon Mobil Corp. but has now become too extreme even for some of its original benefactors.

Those companies have not only found that their companies have been hurt by playing with the fake-science “institutes” that the Mercers are now funding, but many have found that their own profits are better supported by shifting toward renewable energy. While still riding out the fracking boom in oil and gas, Exxon has been devoting a great deal of time and attention to where it goes next.

One of the world’s biggest oil companies is working on hundreds of low-carbon energy projects, from algae engineered to bloom into biofuels and cells that turn emissions into electricity.

But the Mercers have not just stepped in to pick up the slack, they’ve actually increased the funding over previous levels, as well as funding new fake science groups that exist only to create confusion and spread the impression that there is dispute among scientists. The Mercer’s donations for many groups represent the majority of their budget. Meaning that these groups are nothing less than additional mouthpieces for Mercer—and for Donald Trump.

While climate change may be the obvious connection, what the Mercers are really buying is expertise: A network that adds a whole new set of propaganda tools to a growing stable.

Rebekah Mercer is considered the most powerful woman in Republican politics. From telling Donald Trump who to hire for his campaigns staff, to funding alt-Reich attacks at every level, she and her father have wielded outsized influence because of one simple factor—they have billions, and they are willing to spend them.

The Mercers went all in on Trump when the more traditional Republican billionaires were willing to dip only a few million dollar toes into the Trump campaign. That early support has vaulted them to the center of the Trumpist movement, and made them the pair that other Trump-supporting billionaires are looking to for guidance.

The donations the Mercers have made to anti-environmental groups of all kinds—including one that makes no bones about being out to “eradicate the environmental movement”—gives them a network of groups that are experienced not just in that area, but in the broader topic of generating false information and distributing it to the public. Some of these groups, like the Heartland Institute, aren’t newcomers, but have roots that go back into the “smoking is good for you” days.

What the Mercers are investing in isn’t just more FUD about the climate, and it’s not just an attack team for the environment. This is Merchants of Doubt, the industry. These are the people who know how to slip out an authentic-looking press release. How to plant “personal” letters to the editor in newspapers across the country. How to use the growing mass of pseudo-science journals to generate an appearance of authority.

This is a great complement to the network of conservative news sites, conservative online sites, and social media bots. This is another piece of building an entirely alternative universe of conservative propaganda with zero interest in promoting the truth—and every interest in promoting the interest of … the Mercers. And their very select group of friends.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.