‘Clinton Cash’ Book Got Most of Its Funding From One Hedge Fund StarBy
Mercer Family Foundation gave $1.7 million to GAI in 2015
Group founded by Bannon paid author of anti-Clinton book
The nonprofit group behind the bestseller “Clinton Cash,” whose investigation of dealings by Hillary Clinton and her family furnished ammunition for Donald Trump in last year’s presidential campaign, got two-thirds of its funding from a single hedge-fund manager.
Robert Mercer provided $1.7 million of the group’s $2.6 million of revenue in 2015, according to Internal Revenue Service documents obtained by Bloomberg News. The group, the Government Accountability Institute, was co-founded by populist firebrand Stephen Bannon, now the president-elect’s chief strategist.
As co-chief executive officer of Long Island-based Renaissance Technologies, Mercer helps run one of the world’s most profitable hedge funds. The information about the contributions comes from a tax return filed by the Mercer Family Foundation late last year, which reported total grants of $24.5 million in 2015. Mercer declined to comment through a spokesman, and representatives of GAI didn’t respond to inquiries.
“Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer is president of Tallahassee, Florida-based GAI, which also helped him research and promote the book. It was published in 2015 by HarperCollins Publishers.
The book debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list as Clinton’s presidential campaign was getting underway. It scrutinized the speaking fees and charitable contributions she and her family collected from corporations and wealthy individuals around the world, many of whom stood to gain or lose by decisions she made as secretary of state.
While some of Mercer’s links to GAI were previously known, the new documents show an increasing reliance on his support. His foundation provided $1 million to the nonprofit group in 2013 and again in 2014. It didn’t report any contributions to GAI in 2012, the year the group was created. Mercer’s daughter Rebekah served on the GAI board for its first three years but wasn’t listed as a director in 2015.
Bannon, who was also executive chairman of Breitbart News, has described GAI as part of his strategy to “weaponize” stories by investigating them, then handing them off to members of the mainstream media such as the Times and “60 Minutes” to maximize their impact.
A close adviser to the Mercers, Bannon produced a film version of “Clinton Cash” last year before joining the Trump campaign. Rebekah Mercer is a member of the executive committee of the president-elect’s transition team. During the election, the Mercers spent more than $2 million on pro-Trump advertising through a super-PAC they controlled.
GAI bills itself as a nonpartisan watchdog focused on exposing cronyism and corruption, and it has also investigated Republicans including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former House Speaker John Boehner. After Trump’s victory, Schweizer appeared on CNN to warn that the president-elect risks creating the same kinds of conflicts described in “Clinton Cash” if he doesn’t take steps such as divesting his holdings.
The nonprofit has a number of links to other conservative groups and operatives bankrolled by the Mercers, some of which were reported by the Washington Post last year. Schweizer, who earned $203,000 in 2015 as GAI’s president, according to a tax filing, is also an editor-at-large at Breitbart. Bannon drew pay from GAI through at least 2015. GAI advertises on the Breitbart website. And the Mercers bought a $10 million stake in the news site.
GAI reported that it gave $125,000 in 2015 to the Citizens United Foundation, a conservative advocacy group in Washington then headed by David Bossie, who briefly ran the Mercers’ super-PAC last year before serving as Trump’s deputy campaign manager.
Most of the Mercer Family Foundation’s gifts in 2015 were to longtime recipients, including $5 million to the George W. Bush Foundation, which supports the 43rd president’s library, $3 million to the Media Research Center, which combats what it calls “left-wing bias in the news media;” and $2.3 million to the Federalist Society.
The foundation also contributed $1.3 million to Reclaim New York, a group the Mercers set up in 2013 to oppose cronyism and high taxes in their home state and that is pushing hundreds of school districts to disclose spending data.
New recipients in 2015 included American Transparency, an Illinois group whose Open the Books project aims to make all U.S. government spending data available on its website, which got $250,000; and the Law Enforcement Education Program, which received $231,000. That group has links to a Michigan police union and runs a child-fingerprinting program in that state.
The Mercers continued to fund groups that question the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. The foundation gave $500,000 to the Heritage Foundation and $100,000 to the Heartland Institute, even as it reported another $250,000 gift to Berkeley Earth, whose scientific director is the climate skeptic-turned-believer Richard Muller.
Robert Mercer, Muller said in an interview, “is a very complex man, who is not easily characterized by a simplistic word like skeptic or believer.”