Hedge-Fund Chief Mercer Considers Appeal to Back Trump Super-PAC

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on June 1, 2016, in Sacramento, California.

Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Powerful conservative donor Robert Mercer is considering an appeal from Donald Trump supporters to be a central part of a yet-to-be-formed super-PAC to support the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, a person familiar with the effort said.

Mercer, the co-CEO of New York hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, initially backed Texas Senator Ted Cruz for president. He is one of the biggest donors in the 2016 presidential race so far, federal records show.

Robert Mercer playing in the World Poker Tour on May 21, 2012.
Robert Mercer playing in the World Poker Tour on May 21, 2012.
Courtesy World Poker Tour

If Mercer, 69, were to jump on board with Trump, it would send a message to other conservative donors who are either uncertain about whether to back the candidate, or uncertain about which pro-Trump political organization is the best place to park their money.

Kellyanne Conway, a spokeswoman for Mercer, had no immediate statement on the effort, and it’s still unclear whether Mercer will agree to get involved. His family has expressed interest in the proposal but is still considering it, the person said. A second person familiar with the courting effort confirmed it was underway.

Meanwhile, donors who organized a fundraiser for Trump in California last week are forming another new super-PAC, and that one is likely to come together sooner, one of the people familiar with the effort said. That super-PAC would likely become the favorite place for a variety of donors to maximize contributions to Trump, while the possible Mercer-backed PAC would be predominantly funded by his family, the person said.

Top Donor

Mercer has spent $16.7 million funding outside groups in the 2016 election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The pro-Cruz super-PAC Keep the Promise I spent $12.9 million through the end of April, shortly before Cruz quit the race; Mercer contributed $13.5 million of the $14.3 million that the group raised.  

During the Republican primary, Mercer’s pro-Cruz super-PAC paid for ads characterizing Trump as “not a conservative,” highlighting past statements he had made in favor of legalized abortion and universal health care. 

Conway, who runs Keep the Promise I, said May 4 that the group would probably shift its focus to congressional races and that it was too early to say whether it would play a role in the general election for president.

The enigmatic Mercer, working with his daughter, Rebekah, has invested in the Heritage Foundation think tank, the media outlet Breitbart.com, and the voter-psychology data company Cambridge Analytica. Groups he’s funded have attacked climate science, published a book critical of Clinton, and bankrolled an Ayn Rand documentary.

Although Mercer hasn't publicly taken a position on Trump, his family has continued to take part in anti-Hillary Clinton activities since Trump became the de facto nominee in early May. His daughter was a co-executive producer of Clinton Cash, a documentary that examines conflicts of interest at the Clinton Foundation and that premiered in New York and Cannes last month.

Sprawling Outside Groups

The super-PACs already supporting Trump include Committee to Restore America’s Greatness, which was formed in October by ex-Trump aide Roger Stone, and which raised $341,000 through the end of March. Great America PAC, run by a group of political operatives without close ties to Trump, including Ed Rollins, raised $610,000 in cash contributions as of April 30.

And Committee to Restore America’s Sovereignty was formed in May by a group including former Ben Carson aide Doug Watts. It hasn't filed fundraising reports with the Federal Election Commission yet, but Watts said this week it has raised $2 million so far.

Several other donors are discussing where to invest money, including representatives of casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, according to Politico.

Trump boasted of his independence from big donors during the Republican primary, and after the Washington Post reported on ties between his campaign and one super-PAC, he disavowed the group and it disbanded last year.

Clinton, for her part, has had the benefit of big-money groups from the beginning of her campaign. Priorities USA Action, the main pro-Clinton super-PAC, has raised $76 million during this election cycle, and had $47 million on hand as of April 30.

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