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Mercer-backed group downsizes NY operations

Robert Mercer in 2017.

Robert Mercer in 2017. Photo Credit: For The Washington Post via Getty Images/Oliver Contreras

Reclaim New York, a conservative advocacy group backed by Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer and associated with former Trump political adviser Steve Bannon, has announced it is reducing its staff and operations in the state.

Founded six years ago, Reclaim New York sought to highlight what it called wasteful government spending at the state and local levels and a lack of government transparency. Critics said the organization was trying to push an “alt-right” agenda and sow distrust in government.

Either way, it hasn’t become a force in New York politics.

The group announced  the cutbacks in a statement.

“Given the scale of the challenges, and our own commitment to fiscal responsibility, we are reevaluating Reclaim’s role in the engagement of citizens and our staff in holding government accountable. To that end, we have determined to pause daily programming and to reduce our workforce. We intend to migrate to more of a web-based operation rather than a fully staffed field operation.”

Reclaim has been backed by Mercer, the Head of Harbor hedge fund investor who not only has been a major donor to President Donald Trump but also owned a stake in Cambridge Analytica, the controversial voter-data firm, and Breitbart News. Mercer’s daughters, Rebekah and Jennifer, have served as Reclaim’s chair and secretary, respectively.

Bannon was a former vice chairman of Reclaim.

The Mercers played a role in shaking up the Trump campaign and recruiting Bannon as chief strategist in summer 2016.

Among its New York efforts, the group launched a database to try to detail spending by more than 3,000 government bodies and sued the Cuomo administration for advertising spending records. It also weighed in on granular-level local issues, including a fee on real estate deals in Suffolk County, a new jail in Cortland County and a fertilizer plant in Lincoln, a Madison County town of 2,000 residents.

In its statement, Reclaim said it “exposed corruption, waste and failed politics that make New York the highest taxed state” and “trained members of the public to better understand their government.”

But the head of Strong Economy for All, a progressive activist group, said Reclaim ultimately didn’t “find a lot of receptivity” in New York, pointing to the “blue wave” election last year that saw huge Democratic wins in state and congressional races.

“They were about trashing government and pitting communities against one another,” Michael Kink, of Strong Economy, said. “They pointed a finger at some boondoggle economic-development projects, which the left and the right criticized. … But overall, I think they were trying to agitate and divide people against the idea that government can represent them and work toward the common good.”

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