Donald Trump during his presidential campaign extolled his independence from big-money backers, touting his wealth and ability to self-finance his race.
Like other Trump boasts, that wasn't true. Trump received significant financial aid and other campaign assistance from an obscure hedge-fund CEO named Robert Mercer, as the New Yorker's Jane Mayer examines in an exhaustive July 27 piece.
Mayer, who wrote the definitive book on the wealthy Koch Brothers and their efforts to control American politics, shows how Mercer and his daughter. Rebekah, significantly influence the Trump presidency. Mercer introduced Trump to advisers Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, and is a significant backer of Bannon's Breitbart News, the "alt-right" publication that played a major part in boosting Trump.
The co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a Long Island hedge fund that uses algorithms to predict financial market outcomes, Mercer is described as an eccentric mathematical genius. A Wall Street Journal profile quoted by Mayer says he feels more comfortable around cats than humans.
He also hates government, holding the Ayn Rand philosophy that wealth is a sign of human superiority and that rich people shouldn't be taxed to help poor people. Nor does he believe in climate change.
According to Mayer, he also believes in the most outlandish conspiracy theories regarding Bill and Hillary Clinton. His hatred of Hillary Clinton led him to involvement in the 2016 campaign, first backing Ted Cruz until he dropped out. Mercer then switched his support to Trump, donating $2 million directly to Trump's campaign and much more to GOP PACS.
The article included one surprising revelation, that Patrick Caddell, the pollster known for helping Jimmy Carter win the White House, now works for the GOP and is a close associate of Bannon. For years, Caddell's polling has shown widespread support for a political outsider, an assessment that proved true with Trump.
Mayer concludes that Mercer's power is another sign of how the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling has given ultra-wealthy Americans unprecedented control. She says that power has shifted from the two political parties to a small group of rich Americans.
Another insight struck me, that the new class who gained their wealth through the financial industry care less about the country's general good than the old industrialists of the 19th and 20th centuries, who actually built things.The Robert Mercers of today are unlikely to make an effort for the civic good such as Andrew Carnegie's building of public libraries across the country.
Here is a link to Mayer's piece, one of the top pieces of recent political reporting.