Steve Bannon speaks on Dec. 5, 2017, at Oak Hollow...

Steve Bannon speaks on Dec. 5, 2017, at Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope, Alabama. Credit: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

There are plutocrats and there are plutocrats.

As true-believer financiers of right-leaning political causes, the Mercers of Long Island support — but need not tether themselves to — individual candidates or party operatives.

As a Renaissance Technologies billionaire, Robert Mercer became a political counterweight to the hedge fund’s founder, James Simons, a Democrat and noted Barack Obama supporter.

As international players, Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah are opposite numbers of billionaire donor George Soros — just as neoliberal ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg and West Coast tech billionaires back causes that conflict with those of the conservative industrialist Koch brothers.

The Mercers, who are ideologically energized, bankrolled Steve Bannon at Breitbart News and in other venues, but now say they no longer will do so.

They supported Ted Cruz for president last time before backing Donald Trump. They have funded a sophisticated data-mining company that helped sell Brexit in 2016 to British voters.

For the Mercers, it seems to be about the causes, not the cronies — though they surely have allies and friends. The merits of those causes and alliances are a different discussion.

Last week, when Bannon was voted off Trump’s island — he’d been quoted as suggesting the president’s son’s actions were treasonous and unpatriotic — it was only logical that the Mercers would cut the former Goldman Sachs investor loose.

Two months ago, when the elder Mercer announced he was leaving the firm as CEO, his public statement — way more eloquent than any Trump tweet — set the tone for recent events.

“The press,” he said, “has intimated that my politics marches in lockstep with Steve Bannon’s.” While he speaks with Bannon from time to time, his decisions as to whom to support “do not always align” with Bannon’s, Mercer added.

Mercer had already cut ties with Milo Yiannopoulos, the flamboyant agitator, for promoting division, and called his earlier support for him a mistake. Mercer at the time stated:

“I believe that individuals are happiest and most fulfilled when they form their own opinions, assume responsibility for their own actions, and spend the fruits of their own labor as they see fit.

“I believe that a collection of individuals making their own decisions within the confines of a clear and concise set of laws that they have determined for themselves will advance society much more effectively than will a collection of experts who are confident in their knowledge of what is best for everyone else.

“This is why I support conservatives, who favor a smaller, less powerful government.”

Perhaps the Mercers’ relationship with movement adherents such as Bannon and Kellyanne Conway parallels that of a patron of the arts and a big institution, or a client and contractor.

Trump, a candidate who once lauded the virtues of self-funding, left to others the ancillary costs of the movement that carries his name. His own family didn’t kick in resources the way the Mercers did for the last presidential race. What lies ahead remains to be seen, but for now, Rebekah Mercer has expressed family policy in another rare public statement:

“I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected.”


FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.