Trump Backer Mercer Gave $500,000 to GOP Poll-Monitoring Group

Voters cast ballots in New York on Nov. 6, 2012.

Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, one of Donald Trump’s biggest backers, gave $500,000 to a Republican group that plans to have legions of attorneys ready to challenge irregularities at the polls across the country.

Mercer’s Sept. 23 donation is the biggest the Republican National Lawyers Association has received in at least the last four presidential elections, Internal Revenue Service filings show. The group aims to have 1,000 lawyers ready to monitor polls and possibly challenge election results across the country.

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

The contribution comes as Trump, amid sagging poll numbers, has intensified his rhetoric about rigged elections and voter fraud. Two weeks ago, he told a crowd of supporters in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, to “watch other communities because we don’t want this election stolen from us.” Later, at the Oct. 19 debate against Hillary Clinton, Trump declined to say he’d accept the results of the election.

The RNLA, which trains attorneys in battleground states and in local jurisdictions where races are expected to be close, has raised $911,000 in the 2016 election cycle, up from the $565,000 it brought in four years ago. Mercer donated $50,000 to the group in October 2014.

“We are fighting for open fair and honest elections,” RNLA Executive Director Michael Thielen said in an e-mail. “Only part of this is vote fraud. We are opposed to any form of voter intimidation.”

Mercer has emerged as one of the most influential Republican donors this cycle. After backing Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential run in the primaries, Mercer has given at least $2 million to the Make America Number 1 super-PAC, which began backing Trump in July. Kellyanne Conway, David Bossie and Stephen Bannon, who have all been close political advisers to the Mercer family, have gone on to join the upper ranks of the Trump campaign in recent months.

Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesman for Mercer, declined to comment immediately.

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