Politics

Mercer family played bigger role in 2020 election than thought, giving nearly $20 million to dark money GOP fund

The wealthy family led by conservative megadonors Robert and Rebekah Mercer, whose money helped propel Donald Trump to victory in 2016, invested nearly $20 million last year into a GOP-friendly dark money fund that allows donors to keep secret the ultimate destination of their contributions.

The Mercers’ donation, delivered through their family foundation, went to the Donors Trust, according to a new 990 disclosure form. The hefty contribution reveals the Mercers played a much bigger role in financing groups during the 2020 election than previously known.

The Donors Trust takes the money it receives and funnels it to groups of their donors’ choosing. It does not legally have to publicly disclose who is giving to their group or where specific financiers targeted their donations.

It isn’t clear where the Mercers directed the Donors Trust to send their money. The Mercer Family Foundation finished the year with just more than $45 million worth of assets, according to the 990 form.

Some recent contributions to the Donors Trust have gone toward groups that pushed claims of election fraud before and after President Joe Biden defeated Trump in last year’s election. In 2019, the Donors Trust, sent donations to groups such as Turning Point USA, which is led by vocal Trump supporter Charlie Kirk; and the VDARE Foundation, which the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled a hate group.

Before the 2020 election, Trump warned without evidence that the election was at risk of massive voter fraud. Since losing to Biden, Trump has continued to falsely claim the election was stolen from him. Officials from both sides of the political spectrum, including former Trump Attorney General William Barr, have said there was no widespread voter fraud and Biden won the election fair and square.

Robert Mercer, and his three daughters, Rebekah, Jennifer and Heather, are all directors of their family foundation. In the buildup to the election, CNBC reported that the Mercers had opted to distance themselves from Trump and Republican leadership after they were scrutinized for helping to bankroll the New York real estate magnate and reality TV star’s successful run for president in 2016.

The Mercers gave very little directly to campaigns last election cycle. Data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics shows that neither Rebekah nor Robert Mercer, two of the bigger GOP donors in the family, were in the top 100 political donors during the 2019-2020 span.

The Mercers’ big contribution in 2020 to the Donors Trust, a 501(c)(3), allows them to make such a donation without having to publicly disclose exactly which outside groups they funded that year.

Rebekah Mercer is a key financier for Parler, a social media company that has been an outlet for Trump allies to push false claims that the election was rigged against the former president.

Representatives for Rebekah and Robert Mercer did not return requests for comment.

In 2019, the Donors Trust raised more than $300 million and distributed just over $160 million in grants. A spokesman for the group said its 2020 forms won’t be available to the public until later this year.

Records show that the Mercer foundation’s 2020 contribution to the Donors Trust is its largest donation through its nonprofit since at least 2016, when it give a similar amount to various conservative outside groups.

Last year, outside of the donation to the Donors Trust, the new 990 form shows that the only other contribution the foundation made was $9,000 to the American Association for Aerosol Research, a nonprofit that touts sponsors such as NASA and 3M.

The new 990 also gives a glimpse into the Mercers’ personal finances.

According to the disclosure, the foundation says it made at least $30 million off of transactions of assets through an entity identified on the form as the Medallion fund. Robert Mercer stepped down in 2017 from being co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, which has a fund with an identical name.

Institutional Investor reported earlier this year that Renaissance Technologies’ Medallion fund had one of its best years ever in 2020, surging 76%. The news outlet said the Medallion fund is only available to current and former employees of Renaissance Technologies.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that current and former executives at Renaissance Technologies, including Robert Mercer, will pay as much as $7 billion in back taxes, penalties and interest to settle a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service.

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