History is full of powerful families that have left their mark on the political and economic systems of their age. During the Italian Renaissance, there were the Borgias and Medicis. In the United States, a number of families have realized America is not only the land of opportunity but also the land of wealth and dynastic power. We’ve had the Astors and Rockefellers, and even the Rothschilds have a foothold in the American power system.
More recently, the Koch brothers have drawn attention to themselves, and though Charles and David generally try to avoid the spotlight, their fingerprints are all over the political system. Apparently, it’s tough to be the mysterious Wizard of Oz when you’ve bankrolled half the politicians in the Emerald City. Though they’ve historically backed Republicans, the pair has also opposed President Trump. Only last week, when the administration’s Obamacare repeal died before a vote, it was brought down by the Freedom Caucus, a group of congressmen loyal to the Freedom Partners, a political arm of the billionaires.
However, under the Trump administration, a new family is entering the generally cemented world of D.C. power-grabbing. The Mercer family is headed by Robert Mercer, who the New Yorker characterized as “a reclusive Long Island hedge-fund manager, who has become a major force behind the Trump Presidency.” And while Mercer is still a relatively new face on the scene, he’s been building his influence for several years. Like a brilliant chess player, he has been placing his pieces exactly where they can inflict the most damage.
The Mercer patriarch is constantly described as “a brilliant but reclusive computer scientist.” He made a considerable portion of his wealth as CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. In their profile of him, The Guardian wrote that Mercer “very rarely speaks in public and never to journalists.” I asked a handful of D.C. contacts, people usually quite willing to talk to me as a journalist, for more information about the family and was met with a wave of the hand or a refusal to go on record — even to be quoted as an anonymous source.
As The Guardian noted, Mercer is a hard man to find, and so “to gauge his beliefs you have to look at where he channels his money.” Last week, the family appeared at a conference in Washington D.C. sponsored by the Heartland Institute, an organization they pumped over $5 million into between 2008 and 2015. It is best known for its efforts to deny climate change. The Washington Post sent reporters to that conference, but unsurprisingly, the Mercers (Robert and his daughter Rebekah) refused interviews....