The Mercers: Taking the GOP Beyond ‘Peak Extremism’

In the Buzzfeed article on the connections between Breitbart and white supremacists, we learned that this happened after Milo Yiannopoulos was fired for making comments the appeared to endorse pedophilia:

After firing Yiannopoulos, Marlow accompanied him to the Mercers’ Palm Beach home to discuss a new venture: MILO INC. On February 27, not quite two weeks after the scandal erupted, Yiannopoulos received an email from a woman who described herself as “Robert Mercer’s accountant.” “We will be sending a wire payment today,” she wrote. Later that day, in an email to the accountant and Robert Mercer, Yiannopoulos personally thanked his patron.

Why would Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah reach out to provide financial support to the guy Bannon hand-picked to be the bridge between Breitbart and white supremacists? Perhaps it is because, as Christopher Ruddy of Newsmax once said, “[Rebekah Mercer] is the First Lady of the alt-right.” Perhaps it also has something to do with what Robert Mercer’s co-workers told Jane Mayer about some of his political beliefs.

Mercer, for his part, has argued that the Civil Rights Act, in 1964, was a major mistake. According to the onetime Renaissance employee, Mercer has asserted repeatedly that African-Americans were better off economically before the civil-rights movement…He has also said that the problem of racism in America is exaggerated. The source said that, not long ago, he heard Mercer proclaim that there are no white racists in America today, only black racists.

As we head into the war of the oligarchs over the 2018 midterms (with Bannon choosing insurgents to run for every Republican Senate seat except the one occupied by Ted Cruz), perhaps it would be helpful to revisit how the Mercer’s have spent their money in the past—beyond providing support for Yiannopolous.

We all know by now that they have bankrolled all of Steve Bannon’s various enterprises, including Breitbart, the Government Accountability Institute and Glittering Steel (which produces documentaries). They have also invested heavily in the data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Mercer also invested some five million dollars in Cambridge Analytica, a firm that mines online data to reach and influence potential voters. The company has said that it uses secret psychological methods to pinpoint which messages are the most persuasive to individual online viewers. The firm, which is the American affiliate of Strategic Communication Laboratories, in London, has worked for candidates whom Mercer has backed, including Trump. It also reportedly worked on the Brexit campaign, in the United Kingdom.

In addition to those organizations, the Mercers have given money to the Heartland Institute, whose missions includes climate science denialism.

Our position has always been that if human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pose a threat to the natural world and human health, then actions to avoid the threat would be necessary. But if the best-available research shows there is little danger or that there is nothing we can do to prevent climate change, then we should oppose legislation adopted in the name of “stopping” global warming.

They’ve also been major donors to Citizens United, the Media Research Center (the organization founded by L. Brent Bozell) and the American Principles Project (which focuses on religious liberty issues).

But it is in their contributions to individuals where one gets a picture of just how extremist their views are. For example, they have donated $1.5 million to “research” done by an Oregonian named Arthur Robinson.

In a lab on a sheep ranch in the Siskiyou Mountains, he’s spent the last couple of years collecting thousands of vials of human urine. Funded by private donors, he claims his work holds the key to extending the human life span and wresting control of medicine from what he calls the “medical-industrial-government complex.” He has some unusual ideas. According to his monthly newsletter, nuclear radiation can be good for you and climate science is a hoax.

The part about nuclear radiation being good for you is also something Mayer heard about Mercer from his coworkers.

Another onetime senior employee at Renaissance recalls hearing Mercer downplay the dangers posed by nuclear war. Mercer, speaking of the atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, argued that, outside of the immediate blast zones, the radiation actually made Japanese citizens healthier.

The Mercers have also provided funding for an annual conference run by Jane Orient with Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.

At the DoubleTree, one speaker warned that the aim of Obamacare was to collapse the U.S. health-care system and recommended that the audience start stockpiling medications and finding doctors who would work for cash. Another speaker discussed the controversial theory that low doses of radiation are beneficial to human health. A retired heart surgeon from Seattle spent almost an hour arguing that HIV does not cause AIDS; rather, he said, the link was invented by government scientists who wanted to cover up other health risks of “the lifestyle of homosexual men.”…

In addition to arranging the events, Orient heads a separate group that opposes government involvement in health care, and she writes frequently in the far-right media. In December she posted an article about the San Bernardino killings, suggesting that the government failed to stop the attacks because it’s “on the other side.”

Finally, the Mercers have provided funding for the work of Fred Kelly Grant, who focuses on fear-mongering among rural Americans by spreading conspiracy theories about the U.N.’s Agenda 21.

Agenda 21 was signed at the conclusion of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment & Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. President George H.W. Bush and the leaders of 177 other nations signed the plan. At the time, it was seen as a sensible planning paper, a nonbinding statement of intent aimed at dealing with sustainability on an increasingly crowded planet.

Agenda 21 is not a treaty. It has no force of law, no enforcement mechanisms, no penalties and no significant funding, the report notes. It only seeks to encourage communities around the world to come up with their own solutions to overpopulation, pollution, poverty and resource depletion. It cannot force anyone to act.

But in the 22 years since it was signed, extremists have transformed Agenda 21 in the public’s mind into a secret plot to impose a totalitarian world government, a nefarious effort to crush freedom in the name of environmentalism, according to the report.

Reporters often note that Robert Mercer is a somewhat shadowy figure who rarely speaks in public. But let’s take a look once again at what Mayer heard about his views from co-workers.

Several former colleagues of Mercer’s said that his views are akin to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Magerman told me, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make…Magerman added, “He thinks society is upside down—that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.”

This is the man who wants to wrest control of the Republican Party away from the Koch brothers. He and his daughter Rebekah are the reason that Steve Bannon has positioned himself as the new Pied Piper for conservative candidates in the 2018 midterms. If you ever harbored thoughts about the GOP having reached “peak extremism” in the era of Trump, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.