Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

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Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Jun 18, 2017 9:22 am

Renaissance, with assets estimated at $97 billion

MAY 01, 2017 6:00 AM
Billionaire Robert Mercer did Trump a huge favor. Will he get a payback?
McClatchy Washington Bureau

The Internal Revenue Service is demanding a whopping $7 billion or more in back taxes from the world’s most profitable hedge fund, whose boss’s wealth and cyber savvy helped Donald Trump pole-vault into the White House.

Suddenly, the government’s seven-year pursuit of Renaissance Technologies LLC is blanketed in political intrigue, now that the hedge fund’s reclusive, anti-establishment co-chief executive, Robert Mercer, has morphed into a political force who might be owed a big presidential favor.

With Trump in the Oval Office, Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who has become his public voice, seem armed with political firepower every which way you look – and that’s even though presidential adviser Stephen Bannon, their former senior executive and political strategist, appears to have recently lost influence.

Since the IRS found in 2010 that a complicated banking method used by Renaissance and about 10 other hedge funds was a tax-avoidance scheme, Mercer has gotten increasingly active in politics. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, he doled out more than $22 million to outside conservative groups seeking to influence last year’s elections, while advocating the abolition of the IRS and much of the federal government.

The Mercer Family Foundation, run by Rebekah Mercer, also has donated millions of dollars to conservative nonprofit groups that have called for the firing of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, an Obama administration holdover whose five-year term expires in November.

One of them, the Heritage Foundation, received $1.5 million from the Mercer foundation from 2013 through 2015, according to its most recent public tax filings.

Renaissance co-founder Nick Patterson, who recruited Mercer to the hedge fund in 1993

IRS leader Koskinen has said publicly that he intends to finish his term. On his watch, the agency hasn’t been cowed by the Mercers.

The IRS recently released a little-noticed advisory stating that its top targets in future business audits will include so-called “basket options,” the instruments that Renaissance and some other hedge funds have used to convert short-term capital gains to long-term profits that have lower tax rates.

But Renaissance, with assets estimated at $97 billion on Dec. 31, 2016, has shown no signs of buckling to the IRS’s demands.

Nor has there been a hint as to whether Trump, a real estate developer who has refused to make his tax returns public, will intercede. The White House declined to respond to questions about the matter.

Richard Painter, chief White House ethics adviser under President George W. Bush, said the optics surrounding the Mercers’ political connections and the IRS case “are terrible.”

“The guy’s got a big case in front of the IRS,” said Painter, now a University of Minnesota law professor who is also vice chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “He’s trying to put someone in there who’s going to drop the case. Is the president of the United States going to succumb to that or is he not?”

“Are we going to have a commissioner of the IRS who aggressively enforces the law and takes good cases to Tax Court or (somebody who) just throws away tax cases so billionaires don’t have to pay their taxes and the rest of us can pay more taxes?”

The case against Renaissance was initiated before Koskinen became commissioner.

Long before Trump hired him, Bannon was making deals, kindling political fires in Florida
Long before Trump hired him, Bannon was making deals, kindling political fires in Florida
It’s illegal for the IRS to discuss ongoing tax cases, and the agency declines to comment about Renaissance. But in 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a blistering report detailing Renaissance’s use of so-called “basket options” trades by its employees-only Medallion Fund to slash taxes on $34 billion in profits. The panel estimated that Renaissance’s back tax bill dating to the earliest IRS audit would be at least $6.8 billion.

Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesman for the Mercers, declined to comment on the case.

He pointed McClatchy to a Renaissance statement issued in 2014 in response to the Senate findings. Renaissance said then that its tax calculations were “appropriate under current law” and that it had “cooperated fully” with the IRS inquiry.

Robert Martin, a lawyer in the IRS’s chief counsel’s office who co-authored the agency’s legal notices on the issue in 2010 and 2014, said the law covering reporting of the options profits had held up for more than 75 years.

Trump has the legal authority to replace Koskinen and the IRS’s chief counsel, the other agency position requiring Senate confirmation. The latter post is occupied by an acting chief counsel.

John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University who monitors the behavior of Wall Street firms, said the Mercers might win Koskinen’s ouster, but he doubts they could undermine the case.

“I don’t know they’re going to get their candidate in,” he said, “and I’m not sure many candidates are going to try to reverse the staff on something that’s already deeply advanced in either litigation or negotiation.”

Dennis Ventry, an expert in tax law policy from the University of California at Davis School of Law, said he was unaware of any instance in which a president had intervened to stop a tax audit or prosecution. So far, he said, Trump “has been remarkably restrained regarding the IRS.”


Richard Painter, chief White House ethics adviser under President George W. Bush

A former IBM computer scientist, Mercer has forged a web of relationships reaching high into the new administration.

At the top is Bannon, a former senior executive of Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm in which Mercer owns the largest stake. The firm, a U.S. subsidiary of a British company, is credited with playing a key role in Trump’s victory by providing his campaign with electronic dossiers shedding light on the views of 220 million Americans.

Mercer funded Bannon to produce hard-edged political films and a book attacking Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the presidential race. Mercer also invested millions of dollars to become majority owner of far-right Breitbart News with Bannon at the helm. The Mercers and Bannon helped to fuel conservatives’ anger over the IRS’s 2013 investigations challenging the tax-exempt status of right-leaning nonprofit groups, and Mercer funded a number of efforts calling for Koskinen’s impeachment.

On March 29, at least 30 conservative leaders, including a Heritage Foundation representative, converged on the White House for an off-the-record meeting with Trump aides. The groups pressed a range of agendas, especially urging Koskinen’s firing, said one attendee, President Tom Fitton of the nonprofit group Judicial Watch.

In a phone interview, Fitton said “the conservative movement is united in its belief there need to be changes at the IRS,” but he voiced frustration “that the Trump administration seems to be of two minds on whether or not to replace” Koskinen before his term expires.

Fitton declined to identify other attendees, and the Trump White House has abandoned a longtime practice of publicly releasing visitor logs.

The meeting was organized by White House aide Paul Teller, who worked with Rebekah Mercer on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s failed Republican presidential campaign – an effort that Robert Mercer backed with $13.5 million in donations to an independent, pro-Cruz super PAC freed of the usual contribution limits. Mercer gave millions of dollars more to the committee after Cruz bowed out and the super PAC threw its financial allegiance to Trump.

Other groups that have joined the anti-IRS and anti-Koskinen choruses also got money from the Mercer foundation – $600,000 to the Cato Institute in 2014 and 2015 and $250,000 to Citizens for Self-Governance in 2014.

Perhaps the biggest Mercer foundation beneficiary has been the Citizens United Foundation, which received $3.8 million from 2011 through 2015. The foundation’s advocacy arm, Citizens United, wants Koskinen to be impeached. It also spearheaded attacks on Clinton last year over her use of a personal email account to conduct official business during eight years as secretary of state. David Bossie, who is president of both Citizens United entities, and Rebekah Mercer collaborated on the super PAC that backed Trump and later as members of Trump’s transition team.

“Bob (Mercer) has always been very good at leveraging his money” in both business and politics, said Nick Patterson, a Renaissance co-founder and former intelligence code-breaker who recruited Mercer to the hedge fund in 1993. “Bob’s been very dissatisfied with U.S. politics for many years.”

Spokespeople for the Heritage Foundation, Cato, Citizens for Self-Governance and Citizens United did not respond to requests for comment.

Robert Mercer became co-CEO at Renaissance, or RenTech, in November 2009 as the federal government was cracking down on abuses that had contributed to the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Depression.

As a high-volume, high-frequency trader, RenTech’s role in the crisis attracted scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the IRS. Federal agents were alarmed by what they found.

In 2010, the IRS issued a public memorandum warning hedge funds and banks about using “basket options,” structures in which banks loaned funds for the traders to purchase derivatives, which they held in “baskets.” It didn’t mention RenTech by name.

The IRS memo said that hedge funds – not their partner banks – controlled the underlying assets and thus should pay taxes at a higher capital gains rate.

Some hedge funds and banks stopped using basket options, but RenTech persisted.

Then, in July 2014, Democratic Chairman Carl Levin of the Senate Investigations Subcommittee and its ranking Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, issued the report accusing Renaissance of a giant tax dodge on hundreds of millions of options trades dating to 1999.

The panel said basket-trading also had enabled RenTech to dramatically increase its leverage, meaning it could borrow up to 10 times more money against its securities portfolio.

Following the Senate investigation, the IRS issued a notice in 2015 that left no doubt basket-option contracts were taxable as ordinary income.

Without identifying the affected party, IRS attorney Martin confirmed in a phone interview that one ongoing IRS enforcement case stems from basket trades. He said such options cases came down to ensuring that financial instruments were defined for what they really were.

“If you are going to call it a derivative . . . it has to function like a derivative,” he said. “And if it functions like a brokerage account, that’s how it has to be treated.”

The Renaissance case is not yet in tax court.

In the years since the case began, the father-daughter Mercer team has set an agenda that amounts to a full-fledged assault on the established order.

Besides the IRS, targets have included former President Barack Obama, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve, the Department of Justice, various Democratic and moderate Republican members of Congress, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and burdensome regulations and agencies that hinder Mercer’s energy investments.

Mercer has called the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a mistake and has voiced disdain for other federal measures to protect the rights of African-Americans and other minorities.

The Mercers’ foundation gave nearly $11 million from 2011 to 2014 to the Media Research Center, an advocacy group whose “sole mission,” according to its website, “is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media.”

In a rare public statement weeks before Trump’s upset victory, the Mercers said they believe that “America is finally fed up and disgusted with its political elite.”

“Trump is channeling this disgust,” they said, “and those among the political elite who quake before the boom-box of media blather do not appreciate the apocalyptic choice that America faces.”

In 2010, the same year the IRS issued its memo, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling lifting restraints on how much money wealthy donors such as the Mercers may spend to influence election outcomes.

RenTech soon tripled its lobbying expenditures. Last year, it paid $300,000 to a Washington lobbyist and tax strategist, James Miller, a former high-ranking attorney in the IRS’s office of chief counsel. Miller’s public disclosures say his lobbying topics included taxes on derivatives.

And by 2014 the Mercer Family Foundation had distributed $70 million in donations, mainly to conservative nonprofit groups.

By 2016, Renaissance’s founder and chairman, Jim Simons, was one of the Democratic Party’s top backers, and Mercer was a leading Republican donor, making RenTech a leading player in national politics.

Some of Mercer’s projects sought to unseat his Republican adversaries, such as McCain, who became the target of negative ad campaigns during a primary race.

Meanwhile, Rebekah Mercer accumulated so much clout she has been credited with influencing Trump’s choices of several top appointees, including Bannon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, resigned in February after revelations that he had misled the White House about post-election discussions with Russia’s ambassador.

In January, Rebekah Mercer attended a private meeting in which she had “substantative communications” with Jay Clayton, Trump’s likely nominee to chair the SEC, Clayton later revealed in response to questions from the Senate Banking Committee in advance of his confirmation hearings. The SEC regulates hedge funds.

The Mercers’ struggle didn’t end with Trump’s election.

Bannon, the former Mercer political strategist who now speaks for the White House, seemed to capsulize it in a speech to conservative activists in February.

The goal, he said, amounts to nothing less than unfettered American capitalism and the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

MARCH 27, 2017 ISSUE
How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.
By Jane Mayer

Nick Patterson, a former colleague of Mercer’s, said, “In my view, Trump wouldn’t be President if not for Bob.

Last month, when President Donald Trump toured a Boeing aircraft plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, he saw a familiar face in the crowd that greeted him: Patrick Caddell, a former Democratic political operative and pollster who, for forty-five years, has been prodding insurgent Presidential candidates to attack the Washington establishment. Caddell, who lives in Charleston, is perhaps best known for helping Jimmy Carter win the 1976 Presidential race. He is also remembered for having collaborated with his friend Warren Beatty on the 1998 satire “Bulworth.” In that film, a kamikaze candidate abandons the usual talking points and excoriates both the major political parties and the media; voters love his unconventionality, and he becomes improbably popular. If the plot sounds familiar, there’s a reason: in recent years, Caddell has offered political advice to Trump. He has not worked directly for the President, but at least as far back as 2013 he has been a contractor for one of Trump’s biggest financial backers: Robert Mercer, a reclusive Long Island hedge-fund manager, who has become a major force behind the Trump Presidency.

During the past decade, Mercer, who is seventy, has funded an array of political projects that helped pave the way for Trump’s rise. Among these efforts was public-opinion research, conducted by Caddell, showing that political conditions in America were increasingly ripe for an outsider candidate to take the White House. Caddell told me that Mercer “is a libertarian—he despises the Republican establishment,” and added, “He thinks that the leaders are corrupt crooks, and that they’ve ruined the country.”

Trump greeted Caddell warmly in North Charleston, and after giving a speech he conferred privately with him, in an area reserved for V.I.P.s and for White House officials, including Stephen Bannon, the President’s top strategist, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Caddell is well known to this inner circle. He first met Trump in the eighties. (“People said he was just a clown,” Caddell said. “But I’ve learned that you should always pay attention to successful ‘clowns.’ ”) Caddell shared the research he did for Mercer with Trump and others in the campaign, including Bannon, with whom he has partnered on numerous projects.

The White House declined to divulge what Trump and Caddell discussed in North Charleston, as did Caddell. But that afternoon Trump issued perhaps the most incendiary statement of his Presidency: a tweet calling the news media “the enemy of the American people.” The proclamation alarmed liberals and conservatives alike. William McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who commanded the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, called Trump’s statement a “threat to democracy.” The President is known for tweeting impulsively, but in this case his words weren’t spontaneous: they clearly echoed the thinking of Caddell, Bannon, and Mercer. In 2012, Caddell gave a speech at a conference sponsored by Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog group, in which he called the media “the enemy of the American people.” That declaration was promoted by Breitbart News, a platform for the pro-Trump alt-right, of which Bannon was the executive chairman, before joining the Trump Administration. One of the main stakeholders in Breitbart News is Mercer.

Mercer is the co-C.E.O. of Renaissance Technologies, which is among the most profitable hedge funds in the country. A brilliant computer scientist, he helped transform the financial industry through the innovative use of trading algorithms. But he has never given an interview explaining his political views. Although Mercer has recently become an object of media speculation, Trevor Potter, the president of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group, who formerly served as the chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said, “I have no idea what his political views are—they’re unknown, not just to the public but also to most people who’ve been active in politics for the past thirty years.” Potter, a Republican, sees Mercer as emblematic of a major shift in American politics that has occurred since 2010, when the Supreme Court made a controversial ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That ruling, and several subsequent ones, removed virtually all limits on how much money corporations and nonprofit groups can spend on federal elections, and how much individuals can give to political-action committees. Since then, power has tilted away from the two main political parties and toward a tiny group of rich mega-donors.

Private money has long played a big role in American elections. When there were limits on how much a single donor could give, however, it was much harder for an individual to have a decisive impact. Now, Potter said, “a single billionaire can write an eight-figure check and put not just their thumb but their whole hand on the scale—and we often have no idea who they are.” He continued, “Suddenly, a random billionaire can change politics and public policy—to sweep everything else off the table—even if they don’t speak publicly, and even if there’s almost no public awareness of his or her views.”

Through a spokesman, Mercer declined to discuss his role in launching Trump. People who know him say that he is painfully awkward socially, and rarely speaks. “He can barely look you in the eye when he talks,” an acquaintance said. “It’s probably helpful to be highly introverted when getting lost in code, but in politics you have to talk to people, in order to find out how the real world works.” In 2010, when the Wall Street Journal wrote about Mercer assuming a top role at Renaissance, he issued a terse statement: “I’m happy going through my life without saying anything to anybody.” According to the paper, he once told a colleague that he preferred the company of cats to humans.

Several people who have worked with Mercer believe that, despite his oddities, he has had surprising success in aligning the Republican Party, and consequently America, with his personal beliefs, and is now uniquely positioned to exert influence over the Trump Administration. In February, David Magerman, a senior employee at Renaissance, spoke out about what he regards as Mercer’s worrisome influence. Magerman, a Democrat who is a strong supporter of Jewish causes, took particular issue with Mercer’s empowerment of the alt-right, which has included anti-Semitic and white-supremacist voices. Magerman shared his concerns with Mercer, and the conversation escalated into an argument. Magerman told colleagues about it, and, according to an account in the Wall Street Journal, Mercer called Magerman and said, “I hear you’re going around saying I’m a white supremacist. That’s ridiculous.” Magerman insisted to Mercer that he hadn’t used those words, but added, “If what you’re doing is harming the country, then you have to stop.” After the Journal story appeared, Magerman, who has worked at Renaissance for twenty years, was suspended for thirty days. Undaunted, he published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, accusing Mercer of “effectively buying shares in the candidate.” He warned, “Robert Mercer now owns a sizeable share of the United States Presidency.”

Nick Patterson, a former senior Renaissance employee who is now a computational biologist at the Broad Institute, agrees that Mercer’s influence has been huge. “Bob has used his money very effectively,” he said. “He’s not the first person in history to use money in politics, but in my view Trump wouldn’t be President if not for Bob. It doesn’t get much more effective than that.”

Patterson said that his relationship with Mercer has always been collegial. In 1993, Patterson, at that time a Renaissance executive, recruited Mercer from I.B.M., and they worked together for the next eight years. But Patterson doesn’t share Mercer’s libertarian views, or what he regards as his susceptibility to conspiracy theories about Bill and Hillary Clinton. During Bill Clinton’s Presidency, Patterson recalled, Mercer insisted at a staff luncheon that Clinton had participated in a secret drug-running scheme with the C.I.A. The plot supposedly operated out of an airport in Mena, Arkansas. “Bob told me he believed that the Clintons were involved in murders connected to it,” Patterson said. Two other sources told me that, in recent years, they had heard Mercer claim that the Clintons have had opponents murdered.

The Mena story is one of several dark fantasies put forth in the nineties by The American Spectator, an archconservative magazine. According to Patterson, Mercer read the publication at the time. David Brock, a former Spectator writer who is now a liberal activist, told me that the alleged Mena conspiracy was based on a single dubious source, and was easily disproved by flight records. “It’s extremely telling that Mercer would believe that,” Brock said. “It says something about his conspiratorial frame of mind, and the fringe circle he was in. We at the Spectator called them Clinton Crazies.”

Patterson also recalled Mercer arguing that, during the Gulf War, the U.S. should simply have taken Iraq’s oil, “since it was there.” Trump, too, has said that the U.S. should have “kept the oil.” Expropriating another country’s natural resources is a violation of international law. Another onetime senior employee at Renaissance recalls hearing Mercer downplay the dangers posed by nuclear war. Mercer, speaking of the atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, argued that, outside of the immediate blast zones, the radiation actually made Japanese citizens healthier. The National Academy of Sciences has found no evidence to support this notion. Nevertheless, according to the onetime employee, Mercer, who is a proponent of nuclear power, “was very excited about the idea, and felt that it meant nuclear accidents weren’t such a big deal.”

Mercer strongly supported the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Trump’s Attorney General. Many civil-rights groups opposed the nomination, pointing out that Sessions has in the past expressed racist views. Mercer, for his part, has argued that the Civil Rights Act, in 1964, was a major mistake. According to the onetime Renaissance employee, Mercer has asserted repeatedly that African-Americans were better off economically before the civil-rights movement. (Few scholars agree.) He has also said that the problem of racism in America is exaggerated. The source said that, not long ago, he heard Mercer proclaim that there are no white racists in America today, only black racists. (Mercer, meanwhile, has supported a super pac, Black Americans for a Better Future, whose goal is to “get more Blacks involved in the Republican Party.”)

“Most people at Renaissance didn’t challenge him” about politics, Patterson said. But Patterson clashed with him over climate change; Mercer said that concerns about it were overblown. After Patterson shared with him a scientific paper on the subject, Mercer and his brother, Randall, who also worked at the hedge fund, sent him a paper by a scientist named Arthur Robinson, who is a biochemist, not a climate expert. “It looked like a scientific paper, but it was completely loaded with selective and biased information,” Patterson recalled. The paper argued that, if climate change were real, future generations would “enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life.” Robinson owns a sheep ranch in Cave Junction, Oregon, and on the property he runs a laboratory that he calls the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Mercer helps subsidize Robinson’s various projects, which include an effort to forestall aging.

Patterson sent Mercer a note calling Robinson’s arguments “completely false.” He never heard back. “I think if you studied Bob’s views of what the ideal state would look like, you’d find that, basically, he wants a system where the state just gets out of the way,” Patterson said. “Climate change poses a problem for that world view, because markets can’t solve it on their own.”

Magerman told the Wall Street Journal that Mercer’s political opinions “show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do.” He also said that Mercer wants the U.S. government to be “shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.” Several former colleagues of Mercer’s said that his views are akin to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Magerman told me, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” Magerman added, “He thinks society is upside down—that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.” He said that this mind-set was typical of “instant billionaires” in finance, who “have no stake in society,” unlike the industrialists of the past, who “built real things.”

Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.”

The 2016 Presidential election posed a challenge for someone with Mercer’s ideology. Multiple sources described him as animated mainly by hatred of Hillary Clinton. But Mercer also distrusted the Republican leadership. After the candidate he initially supported, Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, dropped out of the race, Mercer sought a disruptive figure who could upend both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Patterson told me that Mercer seems to have applied “a very Renaissance Technologies way of thinking” to politics: “He probably estimated the probability of Trump winning, and when it wasn’t very high he said to himself, ‘O.K., what has to happen in order for this twenty-per-cent thing to occur?’ It’s like playing a card game when you haven’t got a very good hand.”

Mercer, as it happens, is a superb poker player, and his political gamble appears to have paid off. Institutional Investor has called it “Robert Mercer’s Trade of the Century.”

In the 2016 campaign, Mercer gave $22.5 million in disclosed donations to Republican candidates and to political-action committees. Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster who worked for the Trump campaign, said that Mercer had “catapulted to the top of the heap of right-of-center power brokers.” It’s worth noting that several other wealthy financiers, including Democrats such as Thomas Steyer and Donald Sussman, gave even more money to campaigns. (One of the top Democratic donors was James Simons, the retired founder of Renaissance Technologies.) Nevertheless, Mercer’s political efforts stand apart. Adopting the strategy of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire libertarians, Mercer enlarged his impact exponentially by combining short-term campaign spending with long-term ideological investments. He poured millions of dollars into Breitbart News, and—in what David Magerman has called “an extreme example of modern entrepreneurial philanthropy”—made donations to dozens of politically tinged organizations.

Like many wealthy families, the Mercers have a private foundation. At first, the Mercer Family Foundation, which was established in 2004, had an endowment of only half a million dollars, and most of its grants went to medical research and conventional charities. But by 2008, under the supervision of Mercer’s ardently conservative daughter, Rebekah, the foundation began giving millions of dollars to interconnected nonprofit groups, several of which played crucial roles in propagating attacks on Hillary Clinton. By 2015, the most recent year for which federal tax records are available, the foundation had grown into a $24.5-million operation that gave large sums to ultraconservative organizations.

On top of this nonprofit spending, Mercer invested in private businesses. He put ten million dollars into Breitbart News, which was conceived as a conservative counterweight to the Huffington Post. The Web site freely mixes right-wing political commentary with juvenile rants and racist innuendo; under Bannon’s direction, the editors introduced a rubric called Black Crime. The site played a key role in undermining Hillary Clinton; by tracking which negative stories about her got the most clicks and “likes,” the editors helped identify which story lines and phrases were the most potent weapons against her. Breitbart News has been a remarkable success: according to ComScore, a company that measures online traffic, the site attracted 19.2 million unique visitors in October.

Mercer also invested some five million dollars in Cambridge Analytica, a firm that mines online data to reach and influence potential voters. The company has said that it uses secret psychological methods to pinpoint which messages are the most persuasive to individual online viewers. The firm, which is the American affiliate of Strategic Communication Laboratories, in London, has worked for candidates whom Mercer has backed, including Trump. It also reportedly worked on the Brexit campaign, in the United Kingdom.

Alexander Nix, the C.E.O. of the firm, says that it has created “profiles”—consisting of several thousand data points—for two hundred and twenty million Americans. In promotional materials, S.C.L. has claimed to know how to use such data to wage both psychological and political warfare. “Persuading somebody to vote a certain way,” Nix has said publicly, “is really very similar to persuading 14- to 25-year-old boys in Indonesia to not join Al Qaeda.” Some critics suggest that, at this point, Cambridge Analytica’s self-promotion exceeds its effectiveness. But Jonathan Albright, an assistant professor of communications at Elon University, in North Carolina, recently published a paper, on Medium, calling Cambridge Analytica a “propaganda machine.”

As important as Mercer’s business investments is his hiring of advisers. Years before he started supporting Trump, he began funding several conservative activists, including Steve Bannon; as far back as 2012, Bannon was the Mercers’ de-facto political adviser. Some people who have observed the Mercers’ political evolution worry that Bannon has become a Svengali to the whole family, exploiting its political inexperience and tapping its fortune to further his own ambitions. It was Bannon who urged the Mercers to invest in a data-analytics firm. He also encouraged the investment in Breitbart News, which was made through Gravitas Maximus, L.L.C., a front group that once had the same Long Island address as Renaissance Technologies. In an interview, Bannon praised the Mercers’ strategic approach: “The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs.”

Last summer, Bannon and some other activists whom the Mercers have supported—including David Bossie, who initiated the Citizens United lawsuit—came together to rescue Trump’s wobbly campaign. Sam Nunberg, an early Trump adviser who watched Mercer’s group take over, said, “Mercer was smart. He invested in the right people.”

Bannon and Rebekah Mercer have become particularly close political partners. Last month, when Bannon denounced “the corporatist, globalist media” at the Conservative Political Action Conference, in his first public appearance since entering the White House, Rebekah Mercer was part of his entourage. Bannon supports some initiatives, such as a major infrastructure program, that are anathema to libertarians such as Robert Mercer. But the Wall Street Journal has described Bannon joking and swearing on the deck of the Mercers’ yacht, the Sea Owl, as if he were a member of the family. Bannon assured me that the Mercers, despite all their luxuries, are “the most middle-class people you will ever meet.”

Robert and Diana Mercer brought up their three daughters in a modest home near I.B.M.’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center, in Westchester County. The girls attended public schools, and Robert and Diana worried about paying three college tuitions. According to Donna D’Andraia, a family friend, Diana was a PTA member and a “tiger mom” who “made sure that the girls did all the right things—they were in the honor society, and stayed out of trouble.” D’Andraia recalled Diana saying that Robert was brilliant, but D’Andraia found it hard to tell, because “he was very quiet—he didn’t talk to anybody.”

The eldest Mercer daughter, Jennifer, or Jenji, attended Stanford. Rebekah, the middle daughter, enrolled at Cornell and then transferred to Stanford. Majoring in biology and math, she graduated in 1996; a few years later, she got an M.A., in operations research. The youngest daughter, Heather Sue, “was the spitfire,” D’Andraia recalled. When Heather Sue was a junior in high school, she tried out to be a place kicker on the football team. She made it, and, after enrolling at Duke University, she joined its varsity squad. When the Duke coach refused to treat her as the equal of her male teammates, she sued the school for gender discrimination, and won two million dollars in damages. Ron Santavicca, Heather Sue’s high-school coach, described the Mercers, who still invite him to their Christmas parties, as “the salt of the earth.” He added, “The whole family is very determined. When they have a mission, they go after it.”

In 1993, when Nick Patterson mailed Robert Mercer a job offer from Renaissance, Mercer threw it in the trash: he’d never heard of the hedge fund. At the time, Mercer was part of a team pioneering the use of computers to translate languages. I.B.M. considered the project a bit of a luxury, and didn’t see its potential, though the work laid the foundation for Google Translate and Apple’s Siri. But Mercer and his main partner, Peter Brown, found the project exciting, and had the satisfaction of showing up experts in the field, who had dismissed their statistical approach to translating languages as impractical. Instead of trying to teach a computer linguistic rules, Mercer and Brown downloaded enormous quantities of dual-language documents—including Canadian parliamentary records—and created code that analyzed the data and detected patterns, enabling predictions of probable translations. According to a former I.B.M. colleague, Mercer was obsessive, and at one point took six months off to type into a computer every entry in a Spanish-English dictionary. Sebastian Mallaby, in his 2010 book on the hedge-fund industry, “More Money Than God,” reports that Mercer’s boss at I.B.M. once jokingly called him an “automaton.”

In 2014, Mercer accepted a lifetime-achievement award from the Association for Computational Linguistics. In a speech at the ceremony, Mercer, who grew up in New Mexico, said that he had a “jaundiced view” of government. While in college, he had worked on a military base in Albuquerque, and he had showed his superiors how to run certain computer programs a hundred times faster; instead of saving time and money, the bureaucrats ran a hundred times more equations. He concluded that the goal of government officials was “not so much to get answers as to consume the computer budget.” Mercer’s colleagues say that he views the government as arrogant and inefficient, and believes that individuals need to be self-sufficient, and should not receive aid from the state. Yet, when I.B.M. failed to offer adequate support for Mercer and Brown’s translation project, they secured additional funding from darpa, the secretive Pentagon program. Despite Mercer’s disdain for “big government,” this funding was essential to his early success.

Meanwhile, Patterson kept asking Mercer and Brown to join Renaissance. He thought that their technique of extracting patterns from huge amounts of data could be applied to the pile of numbers generated daily by the global trade in stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies. The patterns could generate predictive financial models that would give traders a decisive edge.

In the spring of 1993, Mercer experienced two devastating losses: his mother was killed, in a car crash, and his father, a biologist, died six weeks later. With life’s precariousness made painfully clear, and with tuition bills mounting, he decided to leave I.B.M. for a higher-paying job at Renaissance. Brown made the leap, too.

Renaissance was founded by James Simons, a legendary mathematician, in 1982. Simons had run the math department at Stony Brook University, on Long Island, and the hedge fund took a uniquely academic approach to high finance. Andrew Lo, a finance professor at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, has described it as “the commercial version of the Manhattan Project.” Intensely secretive and filled with people with Ph.D.s, it has been sensationally profitable. Its Medallion Fund, which is open only to the firm’s three hundred or so employees, has averaged returns of almost eighty per cent a year, before fees. Bloomberg News has called the Medallion Fund “perhaps the world’s greatest moneymaking machine.”

In “More Money Than God,” Mallaby, who interviewed Mercer, describes his temperament as that of an “icy cold poker player”; Mercer told him that he could not recall ever having had a nightmare. But Mercer warms up when talking about computers. In the 2014 speech, he recalled the first time he used one, at a science camp, and likened the experience to falling in love. He also spoke of the government lab in New Mexico. “I loved the solitude of the computer lab late at night,” he said. “I loved the air-conditioned smell of the place. I loved the sound of the disks whirring and the printers clacking.” The speech lasted forty minutes—“more than I typically talk in a month,” he noted.

Patterson told me that when Mercer arrived at Renaissance the firm’s equities division was lagging behind other areas, such as futures trading. Mercer and Brown applied their algorithms to equities trading. “It took several years,” Patterson recalled, but the equities group eventually accounted for the largest share of the Medallion Fund’s profits. Mercer and Brown’s code took into account nearly every conceivable predictor of market swings; their secret formula became so valuable that, when a pair of Russian mathematicians at the firm tried to take the recipe elsewhere, the company initiated legal action against them.

Renaissance’s profits were further enhanced by a controversial tax maneuver, which became the subject of a 2014 Senate inquiry. According to Senate investigators, Renaissance had presented countless short-term trades as long-term ones, improperly avoiding some $6.8 billion in taxes. The Senate didn’t allege criminality, but it concluded that Renaissance had committed “abuses.” The I.R.S. demanded payment. (Renaissance defended its practices, and the matter remains contested, leaving a very sensitive material issue pending before the Trump Administration.)

The Medallion Fund made Renaissance employees among the wealthiest people in the country. Forbes estimates that Simons, who has the biggest share, is worth eighteen billion dollars. In 2009, Simons stepped aside, to focus on philanthropy, and named Mercer and Brown co-C.E.O.s. Institutional Investor’s Alpha estimates that, in 2015, Mercer earned a hundred and thirty-five million dollars at Renaissance.

Mercer’s fortune has allowed him and his family to indulge their wildest material fantasies. He and Diana moved into a waterfront estate in Head of the Harbor, a seaside community on Long Island, and called the property Owl’s Nest. Mercer, a gun enthusiast, built a private pistol range there. (He is also a part owner of Centre Firearms, a company that claims to have the country’s largest private cache of machine guns, as well as a weapon that Arnold Schwarzenegger wielded in “The Terminator.”) At Owl’s Nest, Mercer has installed a $2.7-million model-train set in his basement; trains chug through a miniature landscape half the size of a basketball court. The toy train attracted unwanted tabloid headlines, such as “boo-hoo over 2m choo-choo,” after Mercer sued the manufacturer for overcharging him. (The case was settled.)

Mercer retains a domestic staff that includes a butler and a physician; both accompany him whenever he travels. But this, too, has sparked bad publicity. In 2013, three members of the household staff sued to recover back wages, claiming that Mercer had failed to pay overtime, as promised, and that he had deducted pay as punishment for poor work. One infraction that Mercer cited as a “demerit” was a failure to replace shampoo bottles that were two-thirds empty. This suit, too, was settled.

Mercer has bought several spectacular yachts, including the Sea Owl, which is two hundred and three feet long. A 2013 photo shows the gates of the Tower Bridge, in London, raised high to allow it to proceed up the Thames. The Sea Owl has a crew of eighteen, and features a hand-carved “tree” that twists through four levels of decks. Designed, in part, as a place where the extended Mercer family can gather, the yacht has many fanciful and didactic touches for the Mercer grandchildren, such as frescoes that allude to the discoveries of Darwin and Newton. There’s a self-playing Steinway, a spa pool, and an elevator.

Mercer has given major credit to his family for the yacht’s special details, telling Boat International that they are “endowed with both exceptionally good taste and exceptionally strong opinions.” The Mercer daughters are indeed forceful. When a Manhattan bakery that the sisters loved, Ruby et Violette, threatened to close, depriving the Mercers of their favorite cookies, they bought it. In a Fox News interview, Heather Sue recalled telling the others, “We are going to buy a bakery!” The Mercers still own the business, although it is now online-only.

After graduating from Duke, Heather Sue began competing in high-stakes poker tournaments; she is admired on the circuit for her cool manner. When Mercer insisted that Heather Sue take a security guard with her, Santavicca said, “they became friends, then they became whatever, and now they’re married, with two beautiful daughters.”

Jenji has a law degree from Georgetown, but she has pursued an interest in horses instead. In 2008, the Mercers bought a horse farm in Wellington, Florida, for $5.9 million. Jenji and Diana regularly attend the Winter Equestrian Festival, in Palm Beach. They are investors in an equestrian center in North Carolina, and have announced plans to open one in Colorado. Diana is also listed as the owner of Equinimity, a horse stable in Florida. According to the stable’s Web site, it specializes in Equine Facilitated Learning, a system that teaches “non-verbal leadership and interpersonal communication skills through non-predatory horse-inspired wisdom.”

Rebekah worked for a few years at Renaissance after graduating from Stanford. A former colleague recalls her as smart but haughty. In 2003, she married a Frenchman, Sylvain Mirochnikoff, who is a managing director of Morgan Stanley. They had four children and bought a twenty-eight-million-dollar property—six apartments joined together—at Trump Place, on the Upper West Side. Now forty-three, she is divorcing Mirochnikoff. She homeschools the children, but in recent years she has become consumed by politics. “She is the First Lady of the alt-right,” Christopher Ruddy, the owner of the conservative outlet Newsmax Media, said. “She’s respected in conservative circles, and clearly Trump has embraced her in a big way.”

Amity Shlaes, the conservative writer and the chair of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation, where Rebekah Mercer is a trustee, told me, “In the dull crowds of policy, the Mercers are enchanting firecrackers.” She likened the Mercer sisters to the Schuylers—the high-spirited, witty sisters made famous by the musical “Hamilton.” Shlaes went on, “The Mercers have strong values, they’re kind of funny, and they’re really bright. Their brains are almost too strong.” Rebekah, she noted, supports several think tanks, but grows tired of talk; she “is into action.”

After the Citizens United decision, in 2010, the Mercers were among the first people to take advantage of the opportunity to spend more money on politics. In Oregon, they quietly gave money to a super pac—an independent campaign-related group that could now take unlimited donations. In New York, reporters discovered that Robert Mercer was the sole donor behind a million-dollar advertising campaign attacking what it described as a plan to build a “Ground Zero Mosque” in Manhattan. The proposed building was neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero. The ads, which were meant to boost a Conservative Party candidate for governor, were condemned as Islamophobic.

In Oregon, the Mercers gave six hundred and forty thousand dollars to a group that attacked Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat, with a barrage of negative ads during the final weeks of his 2010 reëlection campaign. This effort also failed—it didn’t help when DeFazio announced that a New York hedge-fund manager and his daughter were meddling in Oregon politics.

Press accounts speculated that Robert Mercer may have targeted DeFazio because DeFazio had proposed a tax on a type of high-volume stock trade that Renaissance frequently made. But several associates of Mercer’s say that the truth is stranger. DeFazio’s Republican opponent was Arthur Robinson—the biochemist, sheep rancher, and climate-change denialist. The Mercers became his devoted supporters after reading Access to Energy, an offbeat scientific newsletter that he writes. The family has given at least $1.6 million in donations to Robinson’s Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Some of the money was used to buy freezers in which Robinson is storing some fourteen thousand samples of human urine. Robinson has said that, by studying the urine, he will find new ways of extending the human life span.

Robinson holds a degree in chemistry from Caltech, but his work is not respected in most scientific circles. (The Oregon senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, has called Robinson an “extremist kook.”) Robinson appears to be the source of Robert Mercer’s sanguine view of nuclear radiation: in 1986, Robinson co-authored a book suggesting that the vast majority of Americans would survive “an all-out atomic attack on the United States.” Robinson’s institute dismisses climate change as a “false religion.” A petition that he organized in 1998 to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, claiming to represent thirty thousand scientists skeptical of global warming, has been criticized as deceptive. The National Academy of Sciences has warned that the petition never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, though it is printed in “a format that is nearly identical to that of scientific articles.” The petition, however, still circulates online: in the past year, it was the most shared item about climate change on Facebook.

Robinson, who calls himself a “Jesus-plus-nothing-else” Christian, has become a hero to the religious right for homeschooling his six children. Robert and Rebekah Mercer have praised a curriculum that Robinson sells. (An advertisement for it casts doubt on evolution: “No demonstration has ever been made of the process of ‘spontaneous origin of life.’ ”) Robinson has said that the “socialist” agenda of public schools is “evil” and represents “a form of child abuse.”

Even though 2010 was a successful election year for Republicans, the candidates that the Mercers had supported in Oregon and New York both lost decisively. Their investments had achieved nothing. Wealthy political donors sometimes make easy marks for campaign operatives. Patrick Caddell, the former pollster, told me, “These people who get so rich by running businesses get so taken in when it comes to politics. They’re just sheep. The consultants suck it out of them. A lot of them are surrounded by palace guards, but that’s not true of the Mercers.”

By 2011, the Mercers had joined forces with Charles and David Koch, who own Koch Industries, and who have run a powerful political machine for decades. The Mercers attended the Kochs’ semiannual seminars, which provide a structure for right-wing millionaires looking for effective ways to channel their cash. The Mercers admired the savviness of the Kochs’ plan, which called for attendees to pool their contributions in a fund run by Koch operatives. The fund would strategically deploy the money in races across the country, although, at the time, the Kochs’ chief aim was to defeat Barack Obama in 2012. The Kochs will not reveal the identities of their donors, or the size of contributions, but the Mercers reportedly began giving at least a million dollars a year to the Kochs’ fund. Eventually, they contributed more than twenty-five million.

The Mercers also joined the Council for National Policy, which the Times has described as a “little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country.” The Mercers have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars. The group swears participants to secrecy. But a leaked 2014 roster revealed that it included many people who promoted anti-Clinton conspiracy stories, including Joseph Farah, the editor of WorldNetDaily. The group also brought the Mercers into the orbit of two people who have become key figures in the Trump White House: Kellyanne Conway, who was on the group’s executive committee, and Steve Bannon.

In 2011, the Mercers met Andrew Breitbart, the founder of the fiery news outlet that bears his name, at a conference organized by the Club for Growth, a conservative group. They were so impressed by him that they became interested in investing in his operation. Breitbart, a gleefully offensive provocateur, was the temperamental opposite of Robert Mercer. (In 2010, Breitbart told this magazine, “I like to call someone a raving cunt every now and then, when it’s appropriate, for effect.”) Nevertheless, the Mercers were attracted to Breitbart’s vision of “taking back the culture” by building a media enterprise that could wage information warfare against the mainstream press, empowering what Breitbart called “the silenced majority.”

Breitbart soon introduced the Mercers to Steve Bannon. For a while, Breitbart News operated out of office space that Bannon owned in Santa Monica. A Harvard Business School graduate, Bannon had worked at Goldman Sachs, but he eventually left the world of finance and began making political films. His ambition, apparently, was to become the Michael Moore of the right. In the aughts, he directed polemical documentaries, among them “Fire from the Heartland” and “District of Corruption.” A former associate of Bannon’s in California recalls him as a strategic thinker who was adept at manipulating the media. A voracious reader, he was quick and charming, but, according to the former associate, he had a chip on his shoulder about class. He often spoke of having grown up in a blue-collar Irish Catholic family in Richmond, Virginia, and of having served as a naval officer when he was young. Bannon seemed to feel excluded from the social world of Wall Street peers who had attended prep schools. He had left Goldman Sachs, in 1990, without making partner, and, though he was well off, he had missed out on the gigantic profits that partners had made when the company went public, in 1999.

In 2011, Bannon drafted a business plan for the Mercers that called for them to invest ten million dollars in Breitbart News, in exchange for a large stake. At the time, the Breitbart site was little more than a collection of blogs. The Mercers signed the deal that June, and one of its provisions placed Bannon on the company’s board.

Nine months later, Andrew Breitbart died, at forty-three, of a heart attack, and Bannon became the site’s executive chairman, overseeing its content. The Mercers, meanwhile, became Bannon’s principal patrons. The Washington Post recently published a house-rental lease that Bannon signed in 2013, on which he said that his salary at Breitbart News was seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

Under Bannon’s leadership, the Web site expanded dramatically, adding a fleet of full-time writers. It became a new force on the right, boosting extreme insurgents against the G.O.P. establishment, such as David Brat, who, in 2014, took the seat of Eric Cantor, the Virginia congressman. But it also provided a public forum for previously shunned white-nationalist, sexist, and racist voices. One pundit hired by Bannon was Milo Yiannopoulos, who specialized in puerile insults. (He recently resigned from the site, after a video of him lewdly defending pederasty went viral.)

In 2014, Bannon began hosting a radio show that often featured Patrick Caddell, who effectively had been banished by Democratic Party leaders after years of tempestuous campaigns and fallings-out. On the air, Caddell floated dark theories about Hillary Clinton, and often sounded a lot like Bannon, describing “economic nationalism” as the driving force in American politics. Under Barack Obama, he said, America had turned into a “banana republic.”

By 2016, Breitbart News claims, it had the most shared political content on Facebook, giving the Mercers a platform that no other conservative donors could match. Rebekah Mercer is highly engaged with Breitbart’s content. An insider there said, “She reads every story, and calls when there are grammatical errors or typos.” Though she doesn’t dictate a political line to the editors, she often points out areas of coverage that she thinks require more attention. Her views about the Washington establishment, including the Republican leadership, are scathing. “She was at the avant-garde of shuttering both political parties,” the insider at Breitbart said. “She went a long way toward the redefinition of American politics.”

The Mercers’ investment in Breitbart enabled Bannon to promote anti-establishment politicians whom the mainstream media dismissed, including Trump. In 2011, David Bossie, the head of the conservative group Citizens United, introduced Trump to Bannon; at the time, Trump was thinking about running against Obama. Bannon and Trump met at Trump Tower and discussed a possible campaign. Trump decided against the idea, but the two kept in touch, and Bannon gave Trump admiring coverage. Bannon noticed that, when Trump spoke to crowds, people were electrified. Bannon began to think that Trump might be “the one” who could shake up American politics.

“Breitbart gave Trump a big role,” Sam Nunberg, the aide who worked on the early stages of Trump’s campaign, has said. “They gave us an outlet. No one else would. It allowed us to define our narrative and communicate our message. It really started with the birther thing”—Trump’s false claim that Obama was not born an American citizen—“and then immigration, and Iran. Trump was developing his message.” By 2013, Nunberg said, Trump, like others on Breitbart, was “hitting the establishment” by slamming the Republican leadership in Congress, including Paul Ryan. Nunberg added, “It wasn’t like Charlie Rose was asking us on.”

The Mercer Family Foundation kept expanding its political investments. Between 2011 and 2014, it gave nearly eleven million dollars to the Media Research Center, an advocacy group whose “sole mission,” according to its Web site, “is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media.” The group’s founder, L. Brent Bozell III, is best known for his successful campaign to get CBS sanctioned for showing Janet Jackson’s bared breast during the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast. The Mercers have been among the M.R.C.’s biggest donors, and their money has allowed the group to revamp its news site, and it now claims to reach more than two hundred million Americans a week.

In 2012, the Mercer Family Foundation donated two million dollars to Citizens United, which had trafficked in Clinton hatred for years. During the Clinton Administration, David Bossie, the group’s leader, was a Republican congressional aide, and he was forced to resign after releasing misleading material about a Clinton associate. In 2008, Citizens United released a vitriolic film, “Hillary: The Movie.” Two years ago, after the group received an additional five hundred and fifty thousand dollars from the Mercers’ foundation, it filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding access to Hillary Clinton’s State Department e-mails. When the e-mails were released, her Presidential campaign became mired in negative news stories.

Bannon has often collaborated with Bossie, producing half a dozen films with him. In 2012, Bossie suggested a new joint project: a movie that urged Democrats and independents to abandon Obama in the Presidential election. The film’s approach was influenced by polling work that Patrick Caddell had shared with Bannon. The data suggested that attacking Obama was counterproductive; it was more effective to express “disappointment” in him, by contrasting him with earlier Presidents.

Caddell and Bannon made an unholy alliance, but they had things in common: both men were Irish Catholic sons of the South, scourges to their respective parties, and prone to apocalyptic pronouncements. “We hit it off right away,” Caddell told me. “We’re both revolutionaries.” Bannon was excited by Caddell’s polling research, and he persuaded Citizens United to hire Caddell to convene focus groups of disillusioned Obama supporters. Many of these voters became the central figures of “The Hope & the Change,” an anti-Obama film that Bannon and Citizens United released during the 2012 Democratic National Convention. After Caddell saw the film, he pointed out to Bannon that its opening imitated that of “Triumph of the Will,” the 1935 ode to Hitler, made by the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Bannon laughed and said, “You’re the only one that caught it!” In both films, a plane flies over a blighted land, as ominous music swells; then clouds in the sky part, auguring a new era. The disappointed voters in the film “seared into me,” Bannon said, the fact that middle-class Americans badly wanted change, and could be lured away from the Democratic Party if they felt that they had been conned.

In 2012, Citizens United’s foundation paid Bannon Strategic Advisors, a consultancy group founded by Bannon, three hundred thousand dollars for what it described to the I.R.S. as “fund-raising” services. Bossie told me that the tax filing must have been made in error: the payment was actually for Bannon’s “film development” work. Charitable groups are barred from spending tax-deductible contributions on partisan politics, yet, as Breitbart News noted at the time, “The Hope & the Change” was a “partisan” film “targeting Democrats” during an election year. Even so, the Mercers took a hefty tax deduction for their two-million-dollar donation to Citizens United.

Bossie told me that “the Mercers are very interested in films.” Indeed, Rebekah Mercer is on the board of the Moving Picture Institute, a conservative group devoted to countering Hollywood liberalism with original online entertainment. Among its recent projects was a cartoon, “Everyone Coughs,” which spread the rumor that Hillary Clinton was mortally ill. The film ended by depicting an animated Clinton literally coughing herself to death.

On Election Night in 2012, the Mercers and other top conservative donors settled into the V.I.P. section of a Republican Party victory celebration, having been assured that their investments would pay off. Obama’s defeat of Mitt Romney particularly infuriated Rebekah Mercer, who concluded that the pollsters, the data crunchers, and the spin doctors were all frauds. Soon afterward, Republican Party officials invited big donors to the University Club, in New York, for a postmortem on the election. Attendees were stunned when Rebekah Mercer “ripped the shit out of them,” a friend of hers told me, adding, “It was really her coming out.” As the Financial Times has reported, from that point on Mercer wanted to know exactly how her donations were being spent, and wanted to invest only in what another friend described as “things that she thinks put lead on the target.”

That year, Rebekah Mercer joined the board of the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit group, based in Tallahassee, which Bannon had recently founded. In 2013, the Mercer Family Foundation contributed a million dollars to the institute, and in 2014 it contributed another million. In 2015, it donated $1.7 million, which exceeded the group’s entire budget the previous year. The G.A.I., meanwhile, paid Bannon three hundred and seventy-six thousand dollars during its first four years; it told the I.R.S. that Bannon was working for it thirty hours a week, ostensibly on top of his full-time job running Breitbart News.

The G.A.I. billed itself as a nonpartisan research institute, but in 2015 Bannon told Bloomberg Businessweek that its mission was to dig up dirt on politicians and feed it to the mainstream media. (A G.A.I. staffer called this “weaponizing” information.) The group reportedly hired an expert to comb the Deep Web—sites that don’t show up in standard searches—for incriminating information about its targets. The plan was to exploit the mainstream media’s growing inability to finance investigative reporting by doing it for them. The strategy paid off spectacularly in April, 2015, when the Times ran a front-page article based on the book “Clinton Cash,” a compendium of corruption allegations against the Clintons, which was written by the G.A.I.’s president, the conservative writer Peter Schweizer. (The G.A.I. had given the paper an advance copy.) The book triggered one story after another about Hillary Clinton’s supposed criminality, and became a best-seller. In 2016, a film version, co-produced by Bannon and Rebekah Mercer, débuted at the Cannes Film Festival, as the Mercers’ yacht bobbed offshore.

The G.A.I. also undermined Jeb Bush, the candidate favored by the Republican establishment, with another Schweizer book, “Bush Bucks.” As Bannon put it in a 2015 interview, it depicted Bush as a figure of “grimy, low-energy crony capitalism.”

During this period, the Mercers continued giving money to election campaigns. In 2014, Robert Mercer made a two-and-a-half-million-dollar contribution to the Kochs’ Freedom Partners Action Fund. This exceeded the two-million-dollar contributions of David and Charles Koch, prompting a memorable headline about Mercer from Bloomberg News: “the man who out-koched the kochs.”

Rebekah Mercer, meanwhile, was growing impatient with the Kochs. She felt that they needed to investigate why their network had failed to defeat Obama in 2012. Instead, the Kochs gathered donors and presented them with more empty rhetoric. Mercer demanded an accounting of what had gone wrong, and when they ignored her she decided to start her own operation. In a further blow, Mercer soured several other top donors on the Kochs.

In 2012, one area in which the Republicans had lagged badly behind the Democrats was in the use of digital analytics. The Mercers decided to finance their own big-data project. In 2014, Michal Kosinski, a researcher in the psychology department at the University of Cambridge, was working in the emerging field of psychometrics, the quantitative study of human characteristics. He learned from a colleague that a British company, Strategic Communication Laboratories, wanted to hire academics to pursue similar research, for commercial purposes. Kosinski had circulated personality tests on Facebook and, in the process, obtained huge amounts of information about users. From this data, algorithms could be fashioned that would predict people’s behavior and anticipate their reactions to other online prompts. Those who took the Facebook quizzes, however, had been promised that the information would be used strictly for academic purposes. Kosinski felt that repurposing it for commercial use was unethical, and possibly illegal. His concerns deepened when he researched S.C.L. He was disturbed to learn that the company specialized in psychological warfare, and in influencing elections. He spurned the chance to work with S.C.L., although his colleague signed a contract with the company.

Kosinski was further disconcerted when he learned that a new American affiliate of S.C.L., Cambridge Analytica—owned principally by an American hedge-fund tycoon named Robert Mercer—was attempting to influence elections in the U.S. Kosinski, who is now an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford’s business school, supports the idea of using psychometric data to “nudge” people toward socially positive behavior, such as voting. But, he told me, “there’s a thin line between convincing people and manipulating them.”

It is unclear if the Mercers have pushed Cambridge Analytica to cross that line. A company spokesman declined to comment for this story. What is clear is that Mercer, having revolutionized the use of data on Wall Street, was eager to accomplish the same feat in the political realm. He screened many data-mining companies before investing, and he chose Cambridge Analytica, in part, because its high concentration of accomplished scientists reminded him of Renaissance Technologies. Rebekah Mercer, too, has been deeply involved in the venture. Cambridge Analytica shares a corporate address in Manhattan with a group she chairs, Reclaim New York, which opposes government spending. (Bannon has reportedly served as a corporate officer for both Reclaim and Cambridge Analytica.)

Political scientists and consultants continue to debate Cambridge Analytica’s record in the 2016 campaign. David Karpf, an associate professor at George Washington University who studies the political use of data, calls the firm’s claim to have special psychometric powers “a marketing pitch” that’s “untrue.” Karpf worries, though, that the company “could take a very dark turn.” He explained, “What they could do is set up a MoveOn-style operation with a Tea Party-ish list that they could whip up. Typically, lists like that are used to pressure elected officials, but the dangerous thing would be if it was used instead to pressure fellow-citizens. It could encourage vigilantism.” Karpf said of Cambridge Analytica, “There is a maximalist scenario in which we should be terrified to have a tool like this in private hands.”

Cambridge Analytica is not the only data-driven political project that the Mercers have backed. In 2013, at a conservative conference in Palm Beach, an oil tycoon named William Lee Hanley, who had commissioned some polls from Patrick Caddell, asked him to show the data to Mercer and Bannon, who were at the event. The data showed mounting anger toward wealthy élites, who many Americans believed had corrupted the government so that it served only their interests. There was a hunger for a populist Presidential candidate who would run against the major political parties and the ruling class. The data “showed that someone could just walk into this election and sweep it,” Caddell told me. When Mercer saw the numbers, he asked for the polling to be repeated. Caddell got the same results. “It was stunning,” he said. “The country was on the verge of an uprising against its leaders. I just fell over!”

Until Election Day in 2016, Mercer and Hanley—two of the richest men in America—paid Caddell to keep collecting polling data that enabled them to exploit the public’s resentment of élites such as themselves. Caddell’s original goal was to persuade his sponsors to back an independent candidate, but they never did. In 2014, Caddell and two partners went public with what they called the Candidate Smith project, which promoted data suggesting that the public wanted a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” figure—an outsider—as President. During the next year or so, Caddell’s poll numbers tilted more and more away from the establishment. Caddell’s partner Bob Perkins, an advertising executive and a former finance director of the Republican Party, told me, “By then, it was clear there wouldn’t be a third-party candidate. But we thought that a Republican who harnessed the angst had a real chance.” At one point, Caddell tested all the declared Presidential candidates, including Trump, as a possible Mr. Smith. “People didn’t think Trump had the temperament to be President,” Caddell said. “He clearly wasn’t the best Smith, but he was the only Smith. He was the only one with the resources and the name recognition.” As Bernie Sanders’s campaign showed, the populist rebellion wasn’t partisan. Caddell worried, though, that there were dark undertones in the numbers: Americans were increasingly yearning for a “strong man” to fix the country.

Caddell circulated his research to anyone who would listen, and that included people inside the Trump campaign. “Pat Caddell is like an Old Testament prophet,” Bannon said. “He’s been talking about alienation of the voters for twenty-five years, and people didn’t pay attention—but he’s a brilliant guy, and he nailed it.” The political consultant and strategist Roger Stone, who is a longtime Trump confidant, was fascinated by the research, and he forwarded a memo about it to Trump. Caddell said that he spoke with Trump about “some of the data,” but noted, “With Trump, it’s all instinct—he is not exactly a deep-dive thinker.”

Robert Mercer, too, was kept informed. Perkins said, “He just loves the numbers. Most people say, ‘Tell me what you think—don’t show me the numbers.’ But he’s, like, ‘Give me the numbers!’ ”

During the 2016 campaign, as the Mercers considered which Presidential candidate to back, they rejected insiders such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who they believed couldn’t win. They initially gravitated toward Ted Cruz, in part because he was an outsider in the Senate—loathed by even his Republican peers. During the primaries, the Mercers gave eleven million dollars to a super pac supporting Cruz, run by Kellyanne Conway. According to Politico, Rebekah Mercer soon “wore out her welcome” with the Cruz campaign by offering withering appraisals of his debate performances. She also insisted that the campaign hire Cambridge Analytica, even though Cruz campaign officials were skeptical of it.

After Cruz dropped out, many Republicans—including Cruz himself—recoiled from Trump. The Mercers, however, joined the Trump camp, and publicly rebuked Cruz, giving a statement to the Times. If Clinton won, the Mercers claimed, she would “repeal both the First and Second Amendments of the Bill of Rights.” Given the stakes, they said, “all hands” were “needed on deck” in order to insure a Trump victory. Cruz, they noted, had “chosen to stay in his bunk below.”

The Mercers redirected their Cruz super pac to support Trump, and gave two million dollars to it. According to one Trump adviser, there were strings attached to the donation. He says that, two weeks before Cruz dropped out, Bannon urged the Trump campaign to talk to Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s C.E.O., about hiring the company. (The previous year, the Trump campaign had rebuffed a pitch from the firm.) The adviser said that Nix followed up and offered cash inducements, in the form of a “finder’s fee,” to a Trump operative. (A Cambridge Analytica spokesman denied that this occurred.) Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, said that he knew nothing of Nix’s cash offer but gave Cambridge Analytica a limited contract, though he didn’t see the need, in deference to the Mercers.

Later that summer, Manafort was forced to resign, after the press reported his links to Ukrainian oligarchs. In the vacuum, the Mercers soon established control over the Trump campaign. Rebekah Mercer successfully pushed for a staff shakeup that led to the promotions of three people funded by the family: Bannon became the campaign’s C.E.O., Conway its manager, and Bossie its deputy manager. William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard and an adamant Trump opponent, warned, “It’s the merger of the Trump campaign with the kooky right.” But an e-mail that Bannon sent to a friend in 2015, and that was later leaked to the Daily Beast, confirms that the elevation of the Mercers and their operatives was, in many ways, a formality. A year before Bannon joined Trump’s campaign staff, he described himself in the e-mail as Trump’s de-facto “campaign manager,” because of the positive coverage that Breitbart was giving Trump. That coverage had largely been underwritten by the Mercers.

Brendan Fischer, a lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center, said that the Mercers’ financial entanglement with the Trump campaign was “bizarre” and potentially “illegal.” The group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, which notes that, at the end of the 2016 campaign, the super pac run by the Mercers paid Glittering Steel—a film-production company that shares an address in Los Angeles with Cambridge Analytica and Breitbart News—two hundred and eighty thousand dollars, supposedly for campaign ads attacking Hillary Clinton. Although Bannon was running Trump’s campaign, Fischer said that it appears to have paid him nothing. Meanwhile, the Mercers’ super pac made a payment of about five million dollars to Cambridge Analytica, which was incorporated at the same address as Bannon Strategic Advisors. Super pacs are legally required to stay independent of a candidate’s campaign. But, Fischer said, “it raises the possibility of the Mercers subsidizing Steve Bannon’s work for the Trump campaign.”

On December 3rd, the Mercer family hosted a victory celebration at Owl’s Nest—a costume party with a heroes-and-villains theme. Rebekah Mercer welcomed several hundred guests, including Donald Trump. In extemporaneous remarks, Trump thanked the Mercers, saying that they had been “instrumental in bringing some organization” to his campaign. He specifically named Bannon, Conway, and Bossie. Trump then joked that he’d just had the longest conversation of his life with Bob Mercer—and it was just “two words.” A guest at the party told me, “I was looking around the room, and I thought, No doubt about it—the people whom the Mercers invested in, my comrades, are now in charge.”

After the election, Rebekah Mercer was rewarded with a seat on Trump’s transition team. “She basically bought herself a seat,” Fischer said. She had strong feelings about who should be nominated to Cabinet positions and other top government jobs. Not all her ideas were embraced. She unsuccessfully pushed for John Bolton, the hawkish former Ambassador to the United Nations, to be named Secretary of State. So far, her suggestion that Arthur Robinson, the Oregon biochemist, be named the national science adviser has gone nowhere. Like her father, she advocates a return to the gold standard, but as of yet she has failed to get Trump to appoint officials who share this view.

Still, Mercer made her influence felt. Her pick for national-security adviser was Michael Flynn, and Trump chose him for the job. (Flynn lasted only a month, after he lied about having spoken with the Russian Ambassador before taking office.) More important, several people to whom Mercer is very close—including Bannon and Conway—have become some of the most powerful figures in the world.

Rebekah’s father, meanwhile, can no longer be considered a political outsider. David Magerman, in his essay for the Inquirer, notes that Mercer “has surrounded our President with his people, and his people have an outsized influence over the running of our country, simply because Robert Mercer paid for their seats.” He writes, “Everyone has a right to express their views.” But, he adds, “when the government becomes more like a corporation, with the richest 0.001% buying shares and demanding board seats, then we cease to be a representative democracy.” Instead, he warns, “we become an oligarchy.” ♦ ... 54324.html
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Jun 18, 2017 10:00 am


When politicians take money from megadonors, there are strings attached. But with the reclusive duo who propelled Trump into the White House, there’s a fuse.

Last December, about a month before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Rebekah Mercer arrived at Stephen Bannon’s office in Trump Tower, wearing a cape over a fur-trimmed dress and her distinctive diamond-studded glasses. Tall and imposing, Rebekah, known to close friends as Bekah, is the 43-year-old daughter of the reclusive billionaire Robert Mercer. If Trump was an unexpected victor, the Mercers were unexpected kingmakers. More established names in Republican politics, such as the Kochs and Paul Singer, had sat out the general election. But the Mercers had committed millions of dollars to a campaign that often seemed beyond salvaging.
That support partly explains how Rebekah secured a spot on the executive committee of the Trump transition team. She was the only megadonor to frequent Bannon’s sanctum, a characteristically bare-bones space containing little more than a whiteboard, a refrigerator and a conference table. Unlike the other offices, it also had a curtain so no one could see what was happening inside. Before this point, Rebekah’s resume had consisted of a brief run trading stocks and bonds (including at her father’s hedge fund), a longer stint running her family’s foundation and, along with her two sisters, the management of an online gourmet cookie shop called Ruby et Violette. Now, she was compiling lists of potential candidates for a host of official positions, the foot soldiers who would remake (or unmake) the United States government in Trump’s image.
Rebekah wasn’t a regular presence at Trump Tower. She preferred working from her apartment in Trump Place, which was in fact six separate apartments that she and her husband had combined into an opulent property more than twice the size of Gracie Mansion. Still, it quickly became clear to her new colleagues that she wasn’t content just to chip in with ideas. She wanted decision-making power. To her peers on the executive committee, she supported Alabama senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and General Michael Flynn for national security adviser, but argued against naming Mitt Romney secretary of state. Her views on these matters were heard, according to several people on and close to the transition leadership. Rebekah was less successful when she lobbied hard for John Bolton, the famously hawkish former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to be deputy secretary of state. And when Bolton was not named to any position, she made her displeasure known. “I know it sounds sexist, but she was whiny as hell,” says one person who watched her operate. Almost everyone interviewed for this article, supporters and detractors alike, described her style as far more forceful than that of other powerful donors.
Rebekah Mercer is rarely photographed. However, occasionally she can be found in the background of news photos, uncredited in the captions. Here she is arriving at Trump Tower on December 8, with Nick Ayers and Kellyanne Conway. DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

But then the Mercers aren’t typical donors in most senses beyond their extreme wealth. (The exact number of their billions is unknown.) Robert Mercer is a youthful-looking 70. As a boy growing up in New Mexico, he carried around a notebook filled with computer programs he had written. “It’s very unlikely that any of them actually worked,” he has said. “I didn’t get to use a real computer until after high school.” Robert went on to work for decades at IBM, where he had a reputation as a brilliant computer scientist. He made his vast fortune in his 50s, after his work on predicting financial markets led to his becoming co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s most successful quantitative hedge funds. A longtime colleague, David Magerman, recalls that when Robert began working at Renaissance in 1993, he and his wife, Diana, were “grounded, sweet people.” (Magerman was suspended from Renaissance in February after making critical comments about Robert in The Wall Street Journal.) But “money changed all that,” he says. “Diana started jetting off to Europe and flying to their yacht on weekends. The girls were used to getting what they wanted.”
At Renaissance, Robert was an eccentric among eccentrics. The firm is legendary for shunning people with Wall Street or even conventional finance backgrounds, instead favoring scientists and original thinkers. Robert himself, by all accounts, is extremely introverted. Rarely seen in public, he likes to spend his free time with his wife and three daughters. When, in 2014, Robert accepted an award from the Association for Computational Linguistics, he recalled, in a soft voice and with quiet humor, his consternation at being informed that he was expected to give “an oration on some topic or another for an hour, which, by the way, is more than I typically talk in a month.” Sebastian Mallaby’s account of the hedge-fund elite, More Money Than God, describes him as an “icy cold” poker player who doesn’t remember having a nightmare. He likes model trains, having once purchased a set for $2.7 million, and has acquired one of the country’s largest collections of machine guns.
For years, Robert has embraced a supercharged libertarianism with idiosyncratic variations. He is reportedly pro-death penalty, pro-life and pro-gold standard. He has contributed to an ad campaign opposing the construction of the ground zero mosque; Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, a group that is associated with fringe scientific claims; and Black Americans for a Better Future—a vehicle, the Intercept discovered, for an African-American political consultant who has accused Barack Obama of “relentless pandering to homosexuals.” Magerman, Robert’s former colleague at Renaissance, recalls him saying, in front of coworkers, words to the effect that “your value as a human being is equivalent to what you are paid. ... He said that, by definition, teachers are not worth much because they aren't paid much.” His beliefs were well-known at the firm, according to Magerman. But since Robert was so averse to publicity, his ideology wasn’t seen as a cause for concern. “None of us ever thought he would get his views out, because he only talked to his cats,” Magerman told me.
Robert’s middle daughter Rebekah shares similar political beliefs, but she is also very articulate and, therefore, able to act as her father’s mouthpiece. (Neither Rebekah nor Robert responded to detailed lists of questions for this article.) Under Rebekah’s leadership, the family foundation poured some $70 million into conservative causes between 2009 and 2014.[1]
According to The Washington Post, the family donated $35 million to conservative think tanks and at least to $36.5 million to individual GOP races. The first candidate they threw their financial weight behind was Arthur Robinson, a chemist from Oregon who was running for Congress. He was best known in his district for co-founding an organization that is collecting thousands of vials of urine as part of an effort it says will “revolutionize the evaluation of personal chemistry.” Robinson didn’t win, but he got closer than expected, and the Mercers got a taste of what their money could do. In 2011, they made one of their most consequential investments: a reported $10 million in a new right-wing media operation called Breitbart.
That the family gravitated toward Andrew Breitbart’s upstart website was no accident. The Mercers are “purists,” says Pat Caddell, a former aide to Jimmy Carter who has shifted to the right over the years. They believe Republican elites are too cozy with Wall Street and too soft on immigration, and that American free enterprise and competition are in mortal danger. “Bekah Mercer might be prepared to put a Democrat in Susan Collins’ seat simply to rid the party of Susan Collins,” a family friend joked by way of illustrating her thinking. So intensely do the Mercers want to unseat Republican senator John McCain[2]
Some have speculated that McCain may have angered the Mercers in 2014, when the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, on which McCain was the ranking member at the time, asserted that Renaissance had used complex financial methods to underestimate its taxes by $6 billion. Renaissance has told The New York Times its tax practices are lawful. that they gave $200,000 to support an opposing candidate who once held a town hall meeting to discuss chemtrails—chemicals, according to a long-standing conspiracy theory, that the federal government is spraying on the public without its knowledge. In short, unlike other donors, the Mercers are not merely angling to influence the Republican establishment—they want to obliterate it. One source told me that, in a meeting with Sheldon Adelson and Robert Mercer a few years ago, the casino mogul asked Robert if he was familiar with certain big Republican players. According to the source, Robert shut him down. “I don’t know any of your fancy friends,” he replied, “and I haven’t got any interest in knowing them.”
And so it seemed almost inevitable that their paths converged with Bannon’s when he took over Breitbart in 2012. The Mercers recognized Bannon as an ideological ally. They also appreciated how quickly he improved the website’s finances. Unlike many people in their orbit, Bannon wasn't obsequious: According to one person who often spends time with them, he made zero effort to dress up around his benefactors, often appearing in sweatpants and “looking almost like a homeless person.” Bannon was respectful around Robert, says this person, but with Rebekah he was more apt to say precisely what he thought: “He worked for Bob; he worked with Rebekah.”
Although the Mercers had initially been persuaded to back Texas senator Ted Cruz in the Republican primary, Bannon preferred Trump, and by the time of the Republican National Convention the Mercers were with him. Rebekah made her move last August, at a fundraiser at the East Hampton estate of Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets. According to two sources, one who strategized with the Mercers and another who worked closely with Trump, Rebekah insisted on a 30-minute face-to-face meeting with Trump, in which she informed him that his campaign was a disaster. (Her family had pledged $2 million to the effort about a month earlier, so she felt comfortable being frank.) Trump, who knew her slightly, was willing to listen. He had been disturbed by recent stories detailing disorganization in his campaign and alleging ties between Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and pro-Russia officials in Ukraine. Rebekah knew of this and arrived at her meeting with “props,” says the source who strategized with the Mercers: printouts of news articles about Manafort and Russia that she brandished as evidence that he had to go. And she also had a solution in mind: Trump should put Bannon in charge of the campaign and hire the pollster Kellyanne Conway.[3]
Conway had worked for the Mercers' super PAC.
By the following morning, Rebekah was breakfasting at Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with the two people he trusts most, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, to talk through the proposal in more detail. Within four days, Trump did exactly as Rebekah had advised. Manafort was out. Bannon was in charge. Trump also brought on David Bossie, the president of Citizens United, with whom the Mercers and Bannon had been close for years. Less than four months later, Mercer's handpicked team had pulled off one of the greatest upsets in American politics. Through a bizarre combination of daring and luck, the insurgents had won. Now, they were Trump’s version of the establishment—which is to say, a very volatile one.

(From left to right) Patrick Caddell, Stephen Bannon, Lee and Alice Hanley

On July Fourth weekend in 2014, members of the Mercer clan (Robert, Rebekah and her husband, Sylvain Mirochnikoff) went to visit some new friends. They traveled on Robert’s 203-foot luxury superyacht, the Sea Owl, and anchored just off the WASP enclave of Fishers Island in New York’s Long Island Sound. Their destination, a medieval-style granite castle called White Caps, towered over the shoreline. This was the summer home of Lee and Alice Hanley, Reagan conservatives who’d made their fortune in Texas oil and gas but lived mostly between Greenwich, Connecticut, and Palm Beach, Florida. Like the Mercers, the Hanleys were convinced that the American political establishment was rotten to its foundations. Unlike the Mercers, though, they were popular and vigorous socialites. They loved to entertain and to act as connectors between politicians and donors in their assorted properties, even on their private jet.
That holiday weekend, Lee Hanley revisited the subject of a poll he’d commissioned in 2013 from Pat Caddell, a longtime friend. Hanley had wanted to truly understand the mood of the country and Caddell had returned with something called the “Smith Project.” The nickname alluded to the Jimmy Stewart movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” because its results were so clear: Americans were hungry for an outsider. It didn’t matter whether the candidate came from the left or the right; voters just wanted somebody different. They had lost all faith in the ruling class—the government, the media, Wall Street. “It showed the entire blow-up of the country coming,” Caddell told me. “A whole new paradigm developing.”
No Republican had yet emerged as a front-runner in the 2016 primary, but the Hanleys believed Ted Cruz could take Caddell’s insights and ride them all the way to the White House. They saw Cruz as a unicorn: a dedicated fiscal and social conservative who had broken with his party repeatedly. They were dismissive of Trump. “He doesn't understand politics or geopolitics or anything about the running of the government,” Alice Hanley told me recently.
Robert Mercer and Cruz had met before during a conference in February 2014, when Lee Hanley had invited them to the five-diamond Breakers resort in Palm Beach for a grilling session. Robert was impressed by Cruz’s intellect, according to a person at the meeting, but worried that the 43-year-old senator was too young and might struggle to capture voters’ imaginations. Still, Robert warmed to him over the course of many weekends at various Hanley homes. Apparently, Cruz can hold his alcohol (his preference is cabernet), which is a prized attribute in the Hanleys’ circle.
As the Mercers weighed whether to get involved in a presidential race, their calculus was quite different from that of other megadonors, most of whom run massive corporate empires. Various people who have worked with the Mercers on campaigns told me they didn’t pressure their candidates to adopt policies that would benefit the family’s financial interests, such as favorable regulations for hedge funds. Instead, their mission was a systemic one. Steve Hantler, a friend of Rebekah’s, says she was determined to “disrupt the consultant class,” which she saw as wasteful and self-serving. She wanted to disrupt the conservative movement, too. Rebekah saw the Koch network as hopelessly soft on trade and immigration and was hungry for a mechanism to promote a more hard-line ideology. According to Politico and other sources, she was frustrated at the time that no one was taking her seriously. As it happened, however, the family owned what seemed to be an ideal vehicle for achieving her goals.
Around 2012, Robert Mercer reportedly invested $5 million in a British data science company named SCL Group. Most political campaigns run highly sophisticated micro-targeting efforts to locate voters. SCL promised much more, claiming to be able to manipulate voter behavior through something called psychographic modeling. This was precisely the kind of work Robert valued. “There’s no data like more data,” he likes to say. Robert had made his money by accumulating piles of data on human behavior (markets might move in a certain direction when it rains in Paris, for instance), in order to make extremely precise and lucrative financial bets. Similarly, SCL claimed to be able to formulate complex psychological profiles of voters. These, it said, would be used to tailor the most persuasive possible message, acting on that voter’s personality traits, hopes or fears. The firm has worked on campaigns in Argentina, Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia and Thailand; the Pentagon has used it to conduct surveys in Iran and Afghanistan. Best of all, from the Mercers’ perspective, SCL operated entirely outside the GOP apparatus. (A source close to Rebekah said she wanted a “results-oriented” consultant.) As Rebekah saw it, SCL would allow the Mercers to control the data operation of any campaign they supported, giving the family enormous influence over messaging and strategy.

And it would be Rebekah who would actually carry out this plan. Robert preferred to focus on his work at Renaissance, often operating from his Long Island mansion, Owl’s Nest. “He wouldn’t look under the hood, because that’s not what he does,” says Bob Perkins, one of Caddell’s associates who worked on the Smith Project. Besides, Rebekah was the political animal in the family. (Her older sister Jenji has practiced law; her younger sister Heather Sue is, like Robert, a competitive poker player).
This was a relatively new phenomenon. Rebekah isn't known to have been particularly political earlier in adulthood, while gaining a master’s degree in management science and engineering from Stanford, or in early motherhood. (She has four children with her French-born husband, who became an investment banker at Morgan Stanley.) But, after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which significantly loosened restrictions on political spending, Rebekah decided it was time to “save America from becoming like socialist Europe,” as she has put it to several people. She started attending Koch events and donating to the Goldwater Institute, a right-wing think tank based in Arizona. The family’s political advocacy accelerated rapidly. It was in 2012 that she really attracted attention in GOP circles when, not long after Mitt Romney lost the presidential race, she stood up before a crowd of Romney supporters at the University Club of New York and delivered a scathing but detailed diatribe about his inadequate data and canvassing operation. “Who is that woman?” people in attendance asked.
With SCL, Rebekah finally had the chance to prove she could do better. The company’s American branch was renamed Cambridge Analytica, to emphasize the pedigree of its behavioral scientists. And Rebekah started flying Alexander Nix, the firm’s Old Etonian CEO, around the country to introduce him to her contacts. Nix, 41, is not a data scientist (his background is in financial services), but he is a showy salesman. Dressed in impeccably tailored suits, he is in his element on stage making presentations at large conferences. He can, however, come across as arrogant. (“I love the fact that you're telling your story, but I'm the one giving the interview,” he told me in a conversation.)
Alexander Nix at Cambridge Analytica's New York office. Rebekah Mercer was impressed by Nix's command of data and artistry on the polo field. JOSHUA BRIGHT/THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES

According to Perkins and Caddell, Rebekah and Nix met with them a few times to discuss how CA could use the Smith Project. Rebekah was clearly impressed by Nix. In one meeting, according to Perkins, she gushed about his polo prowess and asked him to show off cellphone photos of himself on horseback. (Nix says he doesn’t recall this meeting or others with the three. He also doesn’t remember displaying such a picture and can “think of no good reason why Bob or Pat would be interested in horses.") The political veterans were skeptical. “I didn’t understand what Nix was talking about,” Perkins told me bluntly. Caddell says he was perplexed when Nix wouldn’t show him the instruments CA used to predict voter behavior. He also thought the firm didn’t grasp the seismic shift underway in American politics. And yet to his great surprise, Bannon vouched for CA, telling Caddell its scientists were “geniuses.” Caddell knew that Bannon was beholden to the Mercers—they were, after all, Breitbart’s part-owners. According to The New York Times, however, Bannon was also vice president of CA’s board. “Even if he did not have a financial investment, he intellectually owned it, which was invaluable,” says a fellow political strategist. After he learned of Bannon’s involvement, Caddell stopped asking Bannon questions about CA.
In the end, Bannon helped seal the deal between the Mercers and Cruz, with CA as the glue. In the fall of 2014, Toby Neugebauer, a garrulous oil-and-gas billionaire from Texas, took Cruz and his campaign manager, Jeff Roe, to the “Breitbart Embassy,” the website’s Washington headquarters near the Capitol. Bannon flitted in and out. Nix, as usual, did most of the talking. After Neugebauer and Roe visited SCL’s London headquarters, the Cruz team agreed that CA could play a key role in their operation, running models and helping with research. However, it was made clear to Rebekah and Nix that the entire data analytics operation would be supervised by Chris Wilson, CEO of the research firm WPA. A source close to Cruz told me that Wilson’s operation had played a crucial role when Cruz ran for the Senate with only 2 percent name recognition in Texas and defeated a far better-known opponent. Why, then, was CA necessary at all? “No one ever said directly that the quid pro quo for hiring CA was that the Mercers would support Cruz,” says someone close to Roe. Nevertheless, after CA was engaged, Neugebauer took a private jet to the Bahamas to meet Robert Mercer on the Sea Owl. When Neugebauer asked him to donate to Cruz’s bid, Robert was matter-of-fact. The family would start with $11 million.

(Clockwise, starting top right) Jeff Roe, Ted Cruz, Alexander Nix

All modern political campaigns have to balance their need for exorbitant sums of money with the obsessions of the people who want to give them that money. Roe, the straight-talking manager of the Cruz operation, has observed that running a campaign is like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube of complicated personalities and uncomfortable dependencies. He has also told people that he is careful not to get too close to the donors who make his campaigns possible, because they can be so easily annoyed by the most trivial of things—his laugh, for instance, or the way he eats a bread roll.
In the case of the Cruz campaign, the donor obsession in question was Cambridge Analytica. And it wasn’t long before Roe and his team suspected that Nix had promised them a more impressive product than he could deliver. On March 4, 2015, Cruz, Roe, Wilson and others gathered in the Hyatt in Washington D.C. for an all-day meeting with Nix and a group of CA senior executives. Wilson took notes on his computer. According to multiple members of the Cruz team, Wilson was dismayed to learn that CA’s models weren’t fully ready for his focus groups the following week. As far as the team could tell, the only data CA possessed that the campaign didn’t already have appeared to be culled from Facebook. In addition, they recalled, CA hadn’t set itself up with Data Trust, the Republican National Committee’s repository of voter information. At one point, they recall, Nix explained that the National Rifle Association’s database of members would be a valuable way to target donors. Wilson typed an emoji with rolling eyes next to the statement because it was so obvious. He told people that he came away thinking, “Red flag, red flag, red flag.”
In response to an extensive set of questions, Nix disputed this account of the meeting. He denied that Cambridge Analytica had obtained any data via Facebook—a source of controversy for the firm ever since The Guardian reported in 2015 that CA based its data on research “spanning tens of millions of Facebook users, harvested largely without their permission.” Nix also claimed that it was the Cruz team that didn’t have access to the RNC’s Data Trust for much of the cycle and that “all data used for the majority of the campaign was provided by Cambridge Analytica.” However, Mike Shields, then the RNC’s chief of staff and Data Trust’s senior adviser, told me the Cruz campaign was in fact the second to sign an agreement with Data Trust, in 2014.
Meanwhile, the red flags kept coming. Wilson found the data scientists that CA sent to Houston to be highly efficient at the day-to-day work of his research operation. But according to Cruz staffers, when he began to test CA’s specialized models, he found that they were notably off, with, for example, some male voters miscategorized as women. In phone surveys, staffers said, CA’s predictions fell short of the 85 percent accuracy the campaign expected. (“Different models have differing levels of accuracy,” Nix said in his response. “I suspect these numbers have been taken out of context to make us look bad. In many previous articles the Cruz campaign have highly rated the quality of our data scientists.”) By September, CA’s first six-month contract was up. A CA employee in the campaign’s Houston office accidentally left the invoice in the photocopier, and Wilson happened to fish it out. The invoice totaled an eye-popping $3,119,052 for work that Wilson estimated to be worth $600,000 at most. “I can’t fucking believe it,” Wilson told Roe, who concurred.
Jeff Roe (left) with Ted Cruz (right), who ultimately fell out of Rebekah Mercer's favor. “We felt to some extent she was being manipulated by Bannon," a Cruz adviser said. ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

Nix disputed this account too, noting that the firm’s fee was “clearly stated in our statement of work and contract.” However, a former consultant for the campaign, Tommy Sears, attended budget meetings “for two if not three days” over the matter. “There was an understanding between both parties that the totality of the contract through March 2016 would be $5.5 million,” he says. “The heartburn felt by the Cruz team was that over $3 million had already been spent by September 1, 2015.”
When the Cruz team decided not to pay the full $3 million, bedlam ensued. A phone call was scheduled with Rebekah, Bannon and CA’s attorney. “I understand she’s a nice lady,” Wilson says politely of Rebekah. According to multiple people on the call, she accused Wilson of undermining CA. Bannon, meanwhile, unleashed a torrent of profanities at the Cruz team. Someone on the call gave me a censored version of his outburst: “The only reason this campaign is where it is right now is because of our people and I. My recommendation to the Mercers is just to pull them out of there and we’ll have them on another campaign by Monday.” Bannon’s language was so foul it was difficult to listen to, says one person on the call who had never met him before. Another of the political pros, who knew Bannon well, wasn’t shocked. “That’s Steve doing business,” he says.
The Cruz team was taken aback by Rebekah’s reaction. Some even wondered if she’d been given all the facts. One person who was close to the campaign says, “She is somewhere between the daughter of a brilliant hedge fund manager and mathematician and somebody who runs a bakery in New York. She clearly has a skill set, but the skill set we’re discussing here regarding the understanding of the value of data and analytics doesn’t fall into that area. She is operating under the information she’s been given.”
The two sides were also diverging ideologically. In the summer of 2015, according to two sources, Rebekah reprimanded Cruz for an April article he’d co-authored with House Speaker Paul Ryan in The Wall Street Journal in support of free trade. She and Bannon told Cruz that he should adopt the positions of Jeff Sessions, whose views on trade and immigration were more in line with the conservative base. By this time, Cruz and his team were becoming increasingly concerned about Bannon’s relationship with Rebekah. Bannon (who declined to comment for this article) was now blatantly pro-Trump. Over the course of the primary, Breitbart would publish around 60 pieces disputing that Cruz was eligible to be president because he had been born in Canada. Cruz repeatedly called Rebekah to complain, but she insisted that she had to be “fair and impartial.” One of his advisers says, “We felt to some extent she was being manipulated by Bannon.” A person close to Bannon counters: “There's absolutely no way anyone could manipulate Rebekah Mercer."
After the first debate in South Carolina, Rebekah gave Cruz a “dressing down” on his performance, according to three sources. “Given what was going on around him—and what he must have truly felt—he behaved like an absolute gentleman,” says a person close to Cruz. Rebekah was incensed that Trump had a tougher immigration policy than Cruz did—she particularly liked Trump’s idea for a total ban on Muslims. Subsequently, Cruz proposed a 180-day suspension on all H1-B visas.
Meanwhile, even though the Cruz staffers generally got along well with their CA counterparts—they sometimes took the visitors country-western dancing —the firm remained a source of friction. In retrospect, Wilson told people, he believed that Nix resented the campaign for allocating work through a competitive bidding process, rather than favoring CA. Two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Wilson assigned a contract to a firm called Targeted Victory. CA then locked its data in the cloud so it couldn’t be accessed by Roe’s team. The data remained unavailable until, a Cruz campaign source said, it was pretty much too late to be useful. Cruz won the Iowa caucuses anyway.
The Cruz operation became so fed up with Nix that they pushed back, hard, on CA’s bill for its second six-month contract. Wilson was able to negotiate the fees down after, as Cruz staffers recalled, a CA representative accidentally emailed him a spreadsheet documenting the Houston team’s salaries. (Nix said CA had intended to send the spreadsheet.) Still, the campaign wound up paying nearly $6 million to CA—which represented almost half of the money the Mercers had pledged to spend on Cruz’s behalf.
The acrimony lingered long after Cruz exited the race in May. When he decided not to endorse Trump at the GOP convention, the Mercers publicly rebuked him. In a statement, Cruz was diplomatic: “We were delighted to work with Cambridge Analytica, they were a valuable asset to my campaign, and any rumors to the contrary are completely unfounded.” (The source close to Rebekah added, “I was with Rebekah the other day and Ted Cruz was falling all over her. It’s not fair to blame CA's methodology for Cruz's loss.”) Others from Cruz’s team, however, remain bitter about the whole experience. “If Rebekah Mercer was broke and wasn’t a major donor in the Republican Party,” says one, “nobody would spend two seconds trying to know her. … She’s not fun. She’s just like a series of amoeba cells.”

(Clockwise, starting bottom left) The Mercers, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, David Bossie, Stephen Bannon, Jared Kushner

One of the great challenges in reporting this story was that almost every single person in Trump’s orbit claims sole credit for his extraordinary victory on November 8. The multiplying narratives of his win can be difficult to untangle, but it is true that his operation ran somewhat more smoothly after Rebekah Mercer helped to replace Manafort with Bannon. This wasn’t necessarily because Bannon himself was a particularly deft manager—he much preferred to focus on big-picture strategy, especially Trump’s messaging in rallies. Most of the details were left to his deputy, David Bossie—at least until October, when Bossie and Trump got into an argument over Trump’s impetuousness on Twitter and Bossie was kicked off the campaign plane, according to multiple sources. But one undeniable benefit of having Bannon in charge was that Rebekah trusted him.
Bannon, several sources said, can be charming when he chooses to be. And he has a record of successfully cultivating wealthy patrons for his various endeavors over the years. At the same time, certain of his ventures have involved high drama. The most spectacular example is the Biosphere 2, a self-contained ecological experiment under a giant dome in the Arizona desert that was funded by the billionaire Texan Ed Bass. Hired as a financial adviser in the early 1990s, Bannon returned in 1994 and used a court order to take over the project, following allegations that it was being mismanaged. He showed up one weekend along with “a small army of U.S. marshals holding guns, followed by a posse of businessmen in suits, a corporate battalion of investment bankers, accountants, PR people, and secretaries,” according to a history of the project called Dreaming the Biosphere. In an effort to thwart Bannon’s takeover, some of the scientists broke the seal of the dome, endangering the experiment.

Because of his relationship with the Mercers, Bannon was able to avoid some of the tensions over Cambridge Analytica that had plagued the Cruz campaign. Before taking the job, he phoned Brad Parscale, a 41-year-old San Antonio web designer who had made websites for the Trump family for years. Although Parscale had never worked in politics before, he now found himself in charge of Trump’s entire data operation. According to multiple sources, Parscale told Bannon that he had been hauled into an unexpected meeting with Alexander Nix earlier that summer. Parscale, who is fiercely proud of his rural Kansas roots, immediately disliked the polished Briton. He informed Nix he wasn’t interested in CA’s psychographic modeling. Parscale and Bannon quickly bonded, seeing each other as fellow outsiders and true Trump loyalists. Bannon told Parscale: “I don't care how you get it done—get it done. Use CA as much or as little as you want.” Parscale did ultimately bring on six CA staffers for additional support within his data operation. But he had his own theory[4]
Parscale has told people that the campaign’s previous models had been based on high turnout figures. “I started to run models with lower turnout which looked like the midterm elections of 2014,” he has said. “I mapped out how, based on that, we could get to 305 electoral college votes.” Trump got 304. of how Trump could secure victory—in the final weeks, he advised Trump to visit Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, three states no one thought Trump could take. The campaign never used CA’s psychographic methodology, as a CA staffer who worked on the campaign later publicly acknowledged at a Google panel.
For the most part, Rebekah kept a low profile during the last phase of the election. On the few occasions that she appeared at Trump Tower, she sat in Bannon’s 14th-floor office. “Most people had no idea who she even was,” says one person who was there regularly. “The idea that she was on the phone to Trump or anyone all the time, that’s nonsense,” says a different source from the transition. The Mercers did intervene when a tape surfaced of Trump bragging to NBC’s Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women—by making a rare statement in Trump’s defense. In a statement to The Washington Post, they said: “If Mr. Trump had told Billy Bush, whoever that is, earlier this year that he was for open borders, open trade and executive actions in pursuit of gun control, we would certainly be rethinking our support for him. …. We are completely indifferent to Mr. Trump’s locker room braggadocio.”

Bannon in the East Wing of the White House on January 22, with Mercer (uncredited) in the background. ANDREW HARRER-POOL/GETTY IMAGES

On election night at Trump Tower, Robert Mercer was nowhere to be seen. Rebekah was in Bannon’s office. Staffers and Trump children wandered in and out of Parscale’s office, because he was usually the first person to have any actual information. Parscale, unlike almost everyone else, including Trump’s children, was convinced his boss was going to win. Trump himself remained glued to the television, refusing to believe anything until victory was officially declared. No one I talked to recalls where Rebekah was in the blur of the celebration.
But people certainly remember her presence during the transition. One night, Rebekah called Trump and told him he absolutely had to make Bannon his White House chief of staff. Trump himself later described the phone call—in a manner an observer characterized as affectionately humorous—to a crowd of about 400 people at the Mercers’ annual costume party at Robert’s mansion on December 3. This year’s theme: “Heroes and Villains.” A guest recalls that Rebekah was dressed in something “that fitted her very well, with holsters.” To the gathering, Trump recounted being woken up at around midnight— Rebekah told friends it was around 10 p.m.—and being bewildered by the late-night tirade. “Rebekah who?” he eventually asked. Everyone laughed,” says the observer. As it happened, Bannon didn’t actually want to be chief of staff, believing himself to be ill-suited to the role. He was named chief strategist instead.
Rebekah had more than personnel decisions on her mind, however. She was particularly focused on what was referred to on the transition as the “outside group.” After the election, it was widely agreed that the GOP needed a nonprofit arm, supported by major donors, to push the president’s agenda across the country, much as the Obama team had set up Organizing for America in 2009. The most important component of any organization like this is its voter database, since it can be used to seek donations and mobilize supporters behind the president’s initiatives. Rebekah wanted CA to be the data engine, which would essentially give her control of the group. And if the venture were successful, she would have an influence over the GOP that no donor had ever pulled off. Theoretically, if the president did something she didn’t like, she could marshal his own supporters against him, since it would be her database and her money. A friend of Rebekah explains: “She felt it was her job to hold the people she’d got elected, accountable to keep their promises.”
On December 14, there was a meeting to discuss the outside group in a glass-walled conference room on the 14th floor of Trump Tower. Brad Parscale sat at the head of the table. Around him were roughly 12 people, including Rebekah; Kellyanne Conway; David Bossie; Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer; Jason Miller, then Trump’s senior communications adviser; and Marc Short, Mike Pence’s senior adviser. Parscale was known to be livid that Alexander Nix had gone on a PR blitz after the election, exaggerating CA’s role. Even worse, Parscale had heard that Nix had been telling people, “Brad screwed up. We had to rescue Brad.” (Nix denied this, saying, “Brad did a brilliant job.”)
And so when Rebekah pushed for CA to run the new group’s data operation, Parscale pushed back. “No offense to the Mercers,” he said, according to multiple attendees. “First, this group is about Trump, not about the Mercers. Second, I don’t have a problem with hiring Cambridge, but Cambridge can’t be the center of everything, because that’s not how the campaign ran.” (He did, however, suggest that Rebekah be on the board.) “No offense taken,” Rebekah replied.
But she would subsequently complain about the exchange to Bannon and others, and continued to lobby for CA to be at the center of the new organization. The situation became so testy that before the inauguration, Jared Kushner brought in Steve Hantler, Rebekah’s friend, to referee. Hantler, a quiet, gentlemanly sort, proposed that the venture be led by someone he knew would be acceptable to both sides: Nick Ayers, a senior adviser to Pence. The “outside group” is now named America First Policies. Parscale is a member, and its first national TV ads have appeared. Ayers has also been cultivating a friendship with Donald Trump Jr., who, sources say, may eventually want to lead the group himself.
The Mercers, however, have withdrawn completely. When it came to the question of whether America First should employ CA, it was Parscale’s view that prevailed: CA has no role in the group at all. “Tens beat nines in poker,” says someone involved with the formation of America First, meaning that Parscale’s close rapport with the Trump family carried greater weight than Rebekah’s connection with Bannon. Rebekah’s relationship with Jared and Ivanka is said to be diminished. Nearly every person I spoke to—Trump supporters, Cruz supporters, fellow donors, friends of Rebekah—agreed on one point: to regain some of her standing, she should fire Alexander Nix. (“We are hoping that she reads your piece and does it,” says a person she works with closely.)
On December 19, Rebekah attended a memorial service in Palm Beach for Lee Hanley, who had died four days before the election. Someone who spoke to her there was expecting her to be thrilled about the election and the position she now occupied. Instead, Rebekah was very low, says this person. She complained about John Bolton being passed over.[5]
Mercer seems to have favored Bolton less for his foreign policy predilections and more for his popularity with the base. The family donated at least $3 million in 2015 and 2016 to Bolton’s super PAC, which helped elect a number of conservative congressional candidates. Perhaps not coincidentally, his super PAC paid Cambridge Analytica at least $700,000 in 2014 and 2016, according to FEC filings. She was also said to be furious at the appointment of Mitt Romney’s niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel, to chair the RNC: To Rebekah, McDaniel personified the very GOP establishment that her family had worked so hard to cast out. “She was emotional,” says the person who was there. “She was talking about how there's no rhyme or reason to the people he's appointing, and that Ivanka was acting like first lady, and Melania was very upset about it.” When asked about this, a person very close to Rebekah said, "She thinks Ivanka is wonderful and amazing and she thinks Melania is wonderful and amazing. She's very policy-oriented and not involved in personalities.”
In the end, Rebekah Mercer’s mistake was that she thought she could upend the system and then control the regime she had helped to bring to power. Helping to elect a president wasn’t enough: She wanted the machinery to shape his presidency. Instead, the chaos simply continued. An administration full of insurgents, it turns out, functions in a near-constant state of insurgency.
Bannon is said to be exhausted and stretched. He is largely responsible for the relentless pace of initiatives and executive orders in the early weeks of the administration, because he doesn’t expect to be in the White House forever. “I’m expecting to be fired by the summer,” he has told friends, likening himself to Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister, who was instrumental in enforcing Britain’s Reformation but ended up being beheaded by his boss. A source close to Bannon says that he may have “joked about being fired,” but disagreed that Bannon is tired: “I don't think he even thinks in those terms. He is used to an intense schedule.” His focus, the source says, “is working for the president to deliver on the promises to the American people for the first 100 days and then beyond on the overall agenda of Making America Great Again.” Bannon returns Rebekah’s phone calls when he can. But, according to someone who knows both well, “relations are strained.” Another person who works with both of them says, “I think Bannon, once he finally built a relationship with Trump, didn't need Rebekah as much … and he doesn't care about that. He only cares about the country.” The source close to Bannon says that Rebekah and the chief strategist remain “close friends and allies.”
As this piece was going to press, several sources warned me not to count Rebekah out. She still has a stake in Breitbart, which holds tremendous sway over Trump’s base and has recently gone on a no-holds-barred offensive against the GOP health care plan. And on March 13, Politico reported that some Trump officials were already disillusioned with America First, which they felt had been slow to provide much-needed cover for his policy initiatives. There was talk of turning instead to a new group being launched by Rebekah Mercer. And so she may yet get another chance to realize her grand ambitions. “She’s used to getting everything she wants, 100 percent of the time,” says another person who knows her well. “Does she like getting 90 percent? No.”

Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Jun 18, 2017 11:12 am

what did Parscale do to earn all that money?

"Giles-Parscale received over $91 million from the Trump campaign and an allied super PAC over an 18-month period."

The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked

A shadowy global operation involving big data, billionaire friends of Trump and the disparate forces of the Leave campaign influenced the result of the EU referendum. As Britain heads to the polls again, is our electoral process still fit for purpose?
by Carole Cadwalladr
Sunday 7 May 2017 04.00 EDT

“The connectivity that is the heart of globalisation can be exploited by states with hostile intent to further their aims.[…] The risks at stake are profound and represent a fundamental threat to our sovereignty.”
Alex Younger, head of MI6, December, 2016

“It’s not MI6’s job to warn of internal threats. It was a very strange speech. Was it one branch of the intelligence services sending a shot across the bows of another? Or was it pointed at Theresa May’s government? Does she know something she’s not telling us?”
Senior intelligence analyst, April 2017

In June 2013, a young American postgraduate called Sophie was passing through London when she called up the boss of a firm where she’d previously interned. The company, SCL Elections, went on to be bought by Robert Mercer, a secretive hedge fund billionaire, renamed Cambridge Analytica, and achieved a certain notoriety as the data analytics firm that played a role in both Trump and Brexit campaigns. But all of this was still to come. London in 2013 was still basking in the afterglow of the Olympics. Britain had not yet Brexited. The world had not yet turned.

“That was before we became this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump,” a former Cambridge Analytica employee who I’ll call Paul tells me. “It was back when we were still just a psychological warfare firm.”

Was that really what you called it, I ask him. Psychological warfare? “Totally. That’s what it is. Psyops. Psychological operations – the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules.”

Why would anyone want to intern with a psychological warfare firm, I ask him. And he looks at me like I am mad. “It was like working for MI6. Only it’s MI6 for hire. It was very posh, very English, run by an old Etonian and you got to do some really cool things. Fly all over the world. You were working with the president of Kenya or Ghana or wherever. It’s not like election campaigns in the west. You got to do all sorts of crazy shit.”

On that day in June 2013, Sophie met up with SCL’s chief executive, Alexander Nix, and gave him the germ of an idea. “She said, ‘You really need to get into data.’ She really drummed it home to Alexander. And she suggested he meet this firm that belonged to someone she knew about through her father.”

Who’s her father?

“Eric Schmidt.”

Eric Schmidt – the chairman of Google?

“Yes. And she suggested Alexander should meet this company called Palantir.”

I had been speaking to former employees of Cambridge Analytica for months and heard dozens of hair-raising stories, but it was still a gobsmacking moment. To anyone concerned about surveillance, Palantir is practically now a trigger word. The data-mining firm has contracts with governments all over the world – including GCHQ and the NSA. It’s owned by Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of eBay and PayPal, who became Silicon Valley’s first vocal supporter of Trump.

In some ways, Eric Schmidt’s daughter showing up to make an introduction to Palantir is just another weird detail in the weirdest story I have ever researched.

A weird but telling detail. Because it goes to the heart of why the story of Cambridge Analytica is one of the most profoundly unsettling of our time. Sophie Schmidt now works for another Silicon Valley megafirm: Uber. And what’s clear is that the power and dominance of the Silicon Valley – Google and Facebook and a small handful of others – are at the centre of the global tectonic shift we are currently witnessing.

It also reveals a critical and gaping hole in the political debate in Britain. Because what is happening in America and what is happening in Britain are entwined. Brexit and Trump are entwined. The Trump administration’s links to Russia and Britain are entwined. And Cambridge Analytica is one point of focus through which we can see all these relationships in play; it also reveals the elephant in the room as we hurtle into a general election: Britain tying its future to an America that is being remade - in a radical and alarming way - by Trump.

There are three strands to this story. How the foundations of an authoritarian surveillance state are being laid in the US. How British democracy was subverted through a covert, far-reaching plan of coordination enabled by a US billionaire. And how we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.

My entry point into this story began, as so many things do, with a late-night Google. Last December, I took an unsettling tumble into a wormhole of Google autocomplete suggestions that ended with “did the holocaust happen”. And an entire page of results that claimed it didn’t.

Google’s algorithm had been gamed by extremist sites and it was Jonathan Albright, a professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, who helped me get to grips with what I was seeing. He was the first person to map and uncover an entire “alt-right” news and information ecosystem and he was the one who first introduced me to Cambridge Analytica.

He called the company a central point in the right’s “propaganda machine”, a line I quoted in reference to its work for the Trump election campaign and the referendum Leave campaign. That led to the second article featuring Cambridge Analytica – as a central node in the alternative news and information network that I believed Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, the key Trump aide who is now his chief strategist, were creating. I found evidence suggesting they were on a strategic mission to smash the mainstream media and replace it with one comprising alternative facts, fake history and rightwing propaganda.

Mercer is a brilliant computer scientist, a pioneer in early artificial intelligence, and the co-owner of one of the most successful hedge funds on the planet (with a gravity-defying 71.8% annual return). And, he is also, I discovered, good friends with Nigel Farage. Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s communications director, told me that it was Mercer who had directed his company, Cambridge Analytica, to “help” the Leave campaign.

The second article triggered two investigations, which are both continuing: one by the Information Commissioner’s Office into the possible illegal use of data. And a second by the Electoral Commission which is “focused on whether one or more donations – including services – accepted by Leave.EU was ‘impermissable’”.

What I then discovered is that Mercer’s role in the referendum went far beyond this. Far beyond the jurisdiction of any UK law. The key to understanding how a motivated and determined billionaire could bypass ourelectoral laws rests on AggregateIQ, an obscure web analytics company based in an office above a shop in Victoria, British Columbia.

It was with AggregateIQ that Vote Leave (the official Leave campaign) chose to spend £3.9m, more than half its official £7m campaign budget. As did three other affiliated Leave campaigns: BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the Democratic Unionist party, spending a further £757,750. “Coordination” between campaigns is prohibited under UK electoral law, unless campaign expenditure is declared, jointly. It wasn’t. Vote Leave says the Electoral Commission “looked into this” and gave it “a clean bill of health”.

How did an obscure Canadian company come to play such a pivotal role in Brexit? It’s a question that Martin Moore, director of the centre for the study of communication, media and power at King’s College London has been asking too. “I went through all the Leave campaign invoices when the Electoral Commission uploaded them to its site in February. And I kept on discovering all these huge amounts going to a company that not only had I never heard of, but that there was practically nothing at all about on the internet. More money was spent with AggregateIQ than with any other company in any other campaign in the entire referendum. All I found, at that time, was a one-page website and that was it. It was an absolute mystery.”

Moore contributed to an LSE report published in April that concluded UK’s electoral laws were “weak and helpless” in the face of new forms of digital campaigning. Offshore companies, money poured into databases, unfettered third parties… the caps on spending had come off. The laws that had always underpinned Britain’s electoral laws were no longer fit for purpose. Laws, the report said, that needed “urgently reviewing by parliament”.

AggregateIQ holds the key to unravelling another complicated network of influence that Mercer has created. A source emailed me to say he had found that AggregateIQ’s address and telephone number corresponded to a company listed on Cambridge Analytica’s website as its overseas office: “SCL Canada”. A day later, that online reference vanished.

There had to be a connection between the two companies. Between the various Leave campaigns. Between the referendum and Mercer. It was too big a coincidence. But everyone – AggregateIQ, Cambridge Analytica, Leave.EU, Vote Leave – denied it. AggregateIQ had just been a short-term “contractor” to Cambridge Analytica. There was nothing to disprove this. We published the known facts. On 29 March, article 50 was triggered.

Then I meet Paul, the first of two sources formerly employed by Cambridge Analytica. He is in his late 20s and bears mental scars from his time there. “It’s almost like post-traumatic shock. It was so… messed up. It happened so fast. I just woke up one morning and found we’d turned into the Republican fascist party. I still can’t get my head around it.”

He laughed when I told him the frustrating mystery that was AggregateIQ. “Find Chris Wylie,” he said.

Who’s Chris Wylie?

“He’s the one who brought data and micro-targeting [individualised political messages] to Cambridge Analytica. And he’s from west Canada. It’s only because of him that AggregateIQ exist. They’re his friends. He’s the one who brought them in.”

There wasn’t just a relationship between Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ, Paul told me. They were intimately entwined, key nodes in Robert Mercer’s distributed empire. “The Canadians were our back office. They built our software for us. They held our database. If AggregateIQ is involved then Cambridge Analytica is involved. And if Cambridge Analytica is involved, then Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon are involved. You need to find Chris Wylie.”

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I did find Chris Wylie. He refused to comment.

Key to understanding how data would transform the company is knowing where it came from. And it’s a letter from “Director of Defence Operations, SCL Group”, that helped me realise this. It’s from “Commander Steve Tatham, PhD, MPhil, Royal Navy (rtd)” complaining about my use in my Mercer article of the word “disinformation”.

I wrote back to him pointing out references in papers he’d written to “deception” and “propaganda”, which I said I understood to be “roughly synonymous with ‘disinformation’.” It’s only later that it strikes me how strange it is that I’m corresponding with a retired navy commander about military strategies that may have been used in British and US elections.

What’s been lost in the US coverage of this “data analytics” firm is the understanding of where the firm came from: deep within the military-industrial complex. A weird British corner of it populated, as the military establishment in Britain is, by old-school Tories. Geoffrey Pattie, a former parliamentary under-secretary of state for defence procurement and director of Marconi Defence Systems, used to be on the board, and Lord Marland, David Cameron’s pro-Brexit former trade envoy, a shareholder.

Steve Tatham was the head of psychological operations for British forces in Afghanistan. The Observer has seen letters endorsing him from the UK Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and Nato.

SCL/Cambridge Analytica was not some startup created by a couple of guys with a Mac PowerBook. It’s effectively part of the British defence establishment. And, now, too, the American defence establishment. An ex-commanding officer of the US Marine Corps operations centre, Chris Naler, has recently joined Iota Global, a partner of the SCL group.

This is not just a story about social psychology and data analytics. It has to be understood in terms of a military contractor using military strategies on a civilian population. Us. David Miller, a professor of sociology at Bath University and an authority in psyops and propaganda, says it is “an extraordinary scandal that this should be anywhere near a democracy. It should be clear to voters where information is coming from, and if it’s not transparent or open where it’s coming from, it raises the question of whether we are actually living in a democracy or not.”

Paul and David, another ex-Cambridge Analytica employee, were working at the firm when it introduced mass data-harvesting to its psychological warfare techniques. “It brought psychology, propaganda and technology together in this powerful new way,” David tells me.

And it was Facebook that made it possible. It was from Facebook that Cambridge Analytica obtained its vast dataset in the first place. Earlier, psychologists at Cambridge University harvested Facebook data (legally) for research purposes and published pioneering peer-reviewed work about determining personality traits, political partisanship, sexuality and much more from people’s Facebook “likes”. And SCL/Cambridge Analytica contracted a scientist at the university, Dr Aleksandr Kogan, to harvest new Facebook data. And he did so by paying people to take a personality quiz which also allowed not just their own Facebook profiles to be harvested, but also those of their friends – a process then allowed by the social network.

Facebook was the source of the psychological insights that enabled Cambridge Analytica to target individuals. It was also the mechanism that enabled them to be delivered on a large scale.

The company also (perfectly legally) bought consumer datasets – on everything from magazine subscriptions to airline travel – and uniquely it appended these with the psych data to voter files. It matched all this information to people’s addresses, their phone numbers and often their email addresses. “The goal is to capture every single aspect of every voter’s information environment,” said David. “And the personality data enabled Cambridge Analytica to craft individual messages.”

Finding “persuadable” voters is key for any campaign and with its treasure trove of data, Cambridge Analytica could target people high in neuroticism, for example, with images of immigrants “swamping” the country. The key is finding emotional triggers for each individual voter.

Cambridge Analytica worked on campaigns in several key states for a Republican political action committee. Its key objective, according to a memo the Observer has seen, was “voter disengagement” and “to persuade Democrat voters to stay at home”: a profoundly disquieting tactic. It has previously been claimed that suppression tactics were used in the campaign, but this document provides the first actual evidence.

But does it actually work? One of the criticisms that has been levelled at my and others’ articles is that Cambridge Analytica’s “special sauce” has been oversold. Is what it is doing any different from any other political consultancy?

“It’s not a political consultancy,” says David. “You have to understand this is not a normal company in any way. I don’t think Mercer even cares if it ever makes any money. It’s the product of a billionaire spending huge amounts of money to build his own experimental science lab, to test what works, to find tiny slivers of influence that can tip an election. Robert Mercer did not invest in this firm until it ran a bunch of pilots – controlled trials. This is one of the smartest computer scientists in the world. He is not going to splash $15m on bullshit.”

Tamsin Shaw, an associate professor of philosophy at New York University, helps me understand the context. She has researched the US military’s funding and use of psychological research for use in torture. “The capacity for this science to be used to manipulate emotions is very well established. This is military-funded technology that has been harnessed by a global plutocracy and is being used to sway elections in ways that people can’t even see, don’t even realise is happening to them,” she says. “It’s about exploiting existing phenomenon like nationalism and then using it to manipulate people at the margins. To have so much data in the hands of a bunch of international plutocrats to do with it what they will is absolutely chilling.

“We are in an information war and billionaires are buying up these companies, which are then employed to go to work in the heart of government. That’s a very worrying situation.”

Google is not ‘just’ a platform. It frames, shapes and distorts how we see the world
Carole Cadwalladr
The right is rewriting history on the web. We must seize back control | Carole Cadwalladr
Carole Cadwalladr Read more

A project that Cambridge Analytica carried out in Trinidad in 2013 brings all the elements in this story together. Just as Robert Mercer began his negotiations with SCL boss Alexander Nix about an acquisition, SCL was retained by several government ministers in Trinidad and Tobago. The brief involved developing a micro-targeting programme for the governing party of the time. And AggregateIQ – the same company involved in delivering Brexit for Vote Leave – was brought in to build the targeting platform.

David said: “The standard SCL/CA method is that you get a government contract from the ruling party. And this pays for the political work. So, it’s often some bullshit health project that’s just a cover for getting the minister re-elected. But in this case, our government contacts were with Trinidad’s national security council.”

The security work was to be the prize for the political work. Documents seen by the Observer show that this was a proposal to capture citizens’ browsing history en masse, recording phone conversations and applying natural language processing to the recorded voice data to construct a national police database, complete with scores for each citizen on their propensity to commit crime.

“The plan put to the minister was Minority Report. It was pre-crime. And the fact that Cambridge Analytica is now working inside the Pentagon is, I think, absolutely terrifying,” said David.

These documents throw light on a significant and under-reported aspect of the Trump administration. The company that helped Trump achieve power in the first place has now been awarded contracts in the Pentagon and the US state department. Its former vice-president Steve Bannon now sits in the White House. It is also reported to be in discussions for “military and homeland security work”.

In the US, the government is bound by strict laws about what data it can collect on individuals. But, for private companies anything goes. Is it unreasonable to see in this the possible beginnings of an authoritarian surveillance state?

A state that is bringing corporate interests into the heart of the administration. Documents detail Cambridge Analytica is involved with many other right-leaning billionaires, including Rupert Murdoch. One memo references Cambridge Analytica trying to place an article with a journalist in Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal: “RM re-channeled and connected with Jamie McCauley from Robert Thomson News Corp office,” it says.

It makes me think again about the story involving Sophie Schmidt, Cambridge Analytica and Palantir. Is it a telling detail, or is it a clue to something else going on? Cambridge Analytica and Palantir both declined to comment for this article on whether they had any relationship. But witnesses and emails confirm that meetings between Cambridge Analytica and Palantir took place in 2013. The possibility of a working relationship was at least discussed.

Further documents seen by the Observer confirm that at least one senior Palantir employee consulted with Cambridge Analytica in relation to the Trinidad project and later political work in the US. But at the time, I’m told, Palantir decided it was too much of a reputational risk for a more formal arrangement. There was no upside to it. Palantir is a company that is trusted to handle vast datasets on UK and US citizens for GCHQ and the NSA, as well as many other countries.

Now though, they are both owned by ideologically aligned billionaires: Robert Mercer and Peter Thiel. The Trump campaign has said that Thiel helped it with data. A campaign that was led by Steve Bannon, who was then at Cambridge Analytica.

A leading QC who spends a lot of time in the investigatory powers tribunal said that the problem with this technology was that it all depended on whose hands it was in.

“On the one hand, it’s being done by companies and governments who say ‘you can trust us, we are good and democratic and bake cakes at the weekend’. But then the same expertise can also be sold on to whichever repressive regime.”

In Britain, we still trust our government. We respect our authorities to uphold our laws. We trust the rule of law. We believe we live in a free and fair democracy. Which is what, I believe, makes the last part of this story so profoundly unsettling.

Donald Trump with Peter Thiel, one of his key Silicon Valley supporters. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
The details of the Trinidad project finally unlocked the mystery that was AggregateIQ. Trinidad was SCL’s first project using big data for micro-targeting before the firm was acquired by Mercer. It was the model that Mercer was buying into. And it brought together all the players: the Cambridge psychologist Aleksandr Kogan, AggregateIQ, Chris Wylie, and two other individuals who would play a role in this story: Mark Gettleson, a focus group expert who had previously worked for the Lib Dems. And Thomas Borwick, the son of Victoria Borwick, the Conservative MP for Kensington.

When my article linking Mercer and Leave.EU was published in February, no one was more upset about it than former Tory adviser Dominic Cummings, the campaign strategist for Vote Leave. He launched an irate Twitter tirade. The piece was “full of errors & itself spreads disinformation” “CA had ~0% role in Brexit referendum”.

A week later the Observer revealed AggregateIQ’s possible link to Cambridge Analytica. Cummings’s Twitter feed went quiet. He didn’t return my messages or my emails.

Questions had already been swirling about whether there had been any coordination between the Leave campaigns. In the week before the referendum, Vote Leave donated money to two other Leave groups – £625,000 to BeLeave, run by fashion student Darren Grimes, and £100,000 to Veterans for Britain, who both then spent this money with AggregateIQ.

The Electoral Commission has written to AggregateIQ. A source close to the investigation said that AggregateIQ responded by saying it had signed a non-disclosure agreement. And since it was outside British jurisdiction, that was the end of it. Vote Leave refers to this as the Electoral Commission giving it “a clean bill of health”.

On his blog, Dominic Cummings has written thousands of words about the referendum campaign. What is missing is any details about his data scientists. He “hired physicists” is all he’ll say. In the books on Brexit, other members of the team talk about “Dom’s astrophysicists”, who he kept “a tightly guarded secret”. They built models, using data “scraped” off Facebook.

Finally, after weeks of messages, he sent me an email. We were agreed on one thing, it turned out. He wrote: “The law/regulatory agencies are such a joke the reality is that anybody who wanted to cheat the law could do it easily without people realising.” But, he says, “by encouraging people to focus on non-stories like Mercer’s nonexistent role in the referendum you are obscuring these important issues”.

And to finally answer the question about how Vote Leave found this obscure Canadian company on the other side of the planet, he wrote: “Someone found AIQ [AggregateIQ] on the internet and interviewed them on the phone then told me – let’s go with these guys. They were clearly more competent than any others we’d spoken to in London.”

The most unfortunate aspect of this – for Dominic Cummings – is that this isn’t credible. It’s the work of moments to put a date filter on Google search and discover that in late 2015 or early 2016, there are no Google hits for “Aggregate IQ”. There is no press coverage. No random mentions. It doesn’t even throw up its website. I have caught Dominic Cummings in what appears to be an alternative fact.

But what is an actual fact is that Gettleson and Borwick, both previously consultants for SCL and Cambridge Analytica, were both core members of the Vote Leave team. They’re both in the official Vote Leave documents lodged with the Electoral Commission, though they coyly describe their previous work for SCL/Cambridge Analytica as “micro-targeting in Antigua and Trinidad” and “direct communications for several PACs, Senate and Governor campaigns”.

And Borwick wasn’t just any member of the team. He was Vote Leave’s chief technology officer.

This story may involve a complex web of connections, but it all comes back to Cambridge Analytica. It all comes back to Mercer. Because the connections must have been evident. “AggregateIQ may not have belonged to the Mercers but they exist within his world,” David told me. “Almost all of their contracts came from Cambridge Analytica or Mercer. They wouldn’t exist without them. During the whole time the referendum was going on, they were working every day on the [Ted] Cruz campaign with Mercer and Cambridge Analytica. AggregateIQ built and ran Cambridge Analytica’s database platforms.”

Infographic on how the Brexit campaigns were linked
Illustration: James Melaugh
Cummings won’t say who did his modelling. But invoices lodged with the Electoral Commission show payments to a company called Advanced Skills Institute. It takes me weeks to spot the significance of this because the company is usually referred to as ASI Data Science, a company that has a revolving cast of data scientists who have gone on to work with Cambridge Analytica and vice versa. There are videos of ASI data scientists presenting Cambridge Analytica personality models and pages for events the two companies have jointly hosted. ASI told the Observer it had no formal relationship with Cambridge Analytica.

Here’s the crucial fact: during the US primary elections, Aggregate IQ signed away its intellectual property (IP). It didn’t own its IP: Robert Mercer did. For AggregateIQ to work with another campaign in Britain, the firm would have to have had the express permission of Mercer. Asked if it would make any comment on financial or business links between “Cambridge Analytica, Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon, AggregateIQ, Leave.EU and Vote Leave”, a spokesperson for Cambridge Analytica said: “Cambridge Analytica did no paid or unpaid work for Leave.EU.”

This story isn’t about cunning Dominic Cummings finding a few loopholes in the Electoral Commission’s rules. Finding a way to spend an extra million quid here. Or (as the Observer has also discovered )underdeclaring the costs of his physicists on the spending returns by £43,000. This story is not even about what appears to be covert coordination between Vote Leave and Leave.EU in their use of AggregateIQ and Cambridge Analytica. It’s about how a motivated US billionaire – Mercer and his chief ideologue, Bannon – helped to bring about the biggest constitutional change to Britain in a century.

Because to understand where and how Brexit is connected to Trump, it’s right here. These relationships, which thread through the middle of Cambridge Analytica, are the result of a transatlantic partnership that stretches back years. Nigel Farage and Bannon have been close associates since at least 2012. Bannon opened the London arm of his news website Breitbart in 2014 to support Ukip – the latest front “in our current cultural and political war”, he told the New York Times.

Britain had always been key to Bannon’s plans, another ex-Cambridge Analytica employee told me on condition of anonymity. It was a crucial part of his strategy for changing the entire world order.

“He believes that to change politics, you have to first change the culture. And Britain was key to that. He thought that where Britain led, America would follow. The idea of Brexit was hugely symbolically important to him.”

On 29 March, the day article 50 was triggered, I called one of the smaller campaigns, Veterans for Britain. Cummings’s strategy was to target people in the last days of the campaign and Vote Leave gave the smaller group £100,000 in the last week. A small number of people they identified as “persuadable” were bombarded with more than a billion ads, the vast majority in the last few days.

I asked David Banks, Veterans for Britain’s head of communications, why they spent the money with AggregateIQ.

“I didn’t find AggegrateIQ. They found us. They rang us up and pitched us. There’s no conspiracy here. They were this Canadian company which was opening an office in London to work in British politics and they were doing stuff that none of the UK companies could offer. Their targeting was based on a set of technologies that hadn’t reached the UK yet. A lot of it was proprietary, they’d found a way of targeting people based on behavioural insights. They approached us.”

It seems clear to me that David Banks didn’t know there might have been anything untoward about this. He’s a patriotic man who believes in British sovereignty and British values and British laws. I don’t think knew about any overlap with these other campaigns. I can only think that he was played.

And that we, the British people, were played. In his blog, Dominic Cummings writes that Brexit came down to “about 600,000 people – just over 1% of registered voters”. It’s not a stretch to believe that a member of the global 1% found a way to influence this crucial 1% of British voters. The referendum was an open goal too tempting a target for US billionaires not to take a clear shot at. Or I should say US billionaires and other interested parties, because in acknowledging the transatlantic links that bind Britain and America, Brexit and Trump, so tightly, we also must acknowledge that Russia is wrapped somewhere in this tight embrace too.

For the last month, I’ve been writing about the links between the British right, the Trump administration and the European right. And these links lead to Russia from multiple directions. Between Nigel Farage and Donald Trump and Cambridge Analytica.

A map shown to the Observer showing the many places in the world where SCL and Cambridge Analytica have worked includes Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Iran and Moldova. Multiple Cambridge Analytica sources have revealed other links to Russia, including trips to the country, meetings with executives from Russian state-owned companies, and references by SCL employees to working for Russian entities.

Article 50 has been triggered. AggregateIQ is outside British jurisdiction. The Electoral Commission is powerless. And another election, with these same rules, is just a month away. It is not that the authorities don’t know there is cause for concern. The Observer has learned that the Crown Prosecution Service did appoint a special prosecutor to assess whether there was a case for a criminal investigation into whether campaign finance laws were broken. The CPS referred it back to the electoral commission. Someone close to the intelligence select committee tells me that “work is being done” on potential Russian interference in the referendum.

Gavin Millar, a QC and expert in electoral law, described the situation as “highly disturbing”. He believes the only way to find the truth would be to hold a public inquiry. But a government would need to call it. A government that has just triggered an election specifically to shore up its power base. An election designed to set us into permanent alignment with Trump’s America.

Martin Moore of King’s College, London, pointed out that elections were a newly fashionable tool for would-be authoritarian states. “Look at Erdoğan in Turkey. What Theresa May is doing is quite anti-democratic in a way. It’s about enhancing her power very deliberately. It’s not about a battle of policy between two parties.”

This is Britain in 2017. A Britain that increasingly looks like a “managed” democracy. Paid for a US billionaire. Using military-style technology. Delivered by Facebook. And enabled by us. If we let this referendum result stand, we are giving it our implicit consent. This isn’t about Remain or Leave. It goes far beyond party politics. It’s about the first step into a brave, new, increasingly undemocratic world.

Key names
SCL Group
British company with 25 years experience in military “psychological operations” and “election management”.

Cambridge Analytica
Data analytics company formed in 2014. Robert Mercer owns 90%. SCL owns 10%. Carried out major digital targeting campaigns for Donald Trump campaign, Ted Cruz’s nomination campaign and multiple other US Republican campaigns – mostly funded by Mercer. Gave Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU “help” during referendum.

Robert Mercer
US billionaire hedge fund owner who was Trump’s biggest donor. Owns Cambridge Analytica and the IP [intellectual property] ofAggregateIQ. Friend of Farage. Close associate of Steve Bannon.

Steve Bannon
Trump’s chief strategist. Vice-president of Cambridge Analytica during referendum period. Friend of Farage.

Alexander Nix
Director of Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group.

Christopher Wylie
Canadian who first brought data expertise and microtargeting to Cambridge Analytica; recruited AggregateIQ.

Data analytics company based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Worked for Mercer-funded Pacs that supported the Trump campaign. Robert Mercer owns AggregateIQ’s IP. Paid £3.9m by Vote Leave to “micro-target” voters on social media during referendum campaign. Outside British jurisdiction.

Veterans for Britain
Given £100,000 by Vote Leave. Spent it with AggregateIQ.

Youth Leave campaign set up by 23-year-old student. Given £625,000 by Vote Leave & £50,000 by another donor. Spent it with AggregateIQ.

Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. Spent £32,750 with AggregrateIQ.

Thomas Borwick
Vote Leave’s chief technology officer. Previously worked with SCL/Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ.

ASI Data Science
Data science specialists. Links with Cambridge Analytica, including staff moving between the two and holding joint events. Paid £114,000 by Vote Leave. Vote Leave declared £71,000 to Electoral Commission.

Donald Trump
US president. Campaign funded by Mercer and run by Bannon. Data services supplied by Cambridge Analytica and AggregrateIQ.

Nigel Farage
Former Ukip leader. Leader of Leave.EU. Friend of Trump, Mercer and Bannon.

Arron Banks
Bristol businessman. Co-founder of Leave.EU. Owns data company and insurance firm. Single biggest donor to Leave – £7.5m.

Some names, ages and other identifying details of sources in this article have been changed ... -democracy
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
They could still get him out of office.
But instead, they want mass death.
Don’t forget that.
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby Elvis » Sun Jun 18, 2017 1:43 pm

Cadwalladr goes on to detail Mercer’s work and the key role of a Canadian company AggregateIQ which is closely entwined with both Mercer and Cambridge Analytics. But read further and she gives us this interesting take-away:

“SCL/Cambridge Analytica was not some startup created by a couple of guys with a Mac PowerBook. It’s effectively part of the British defence establishment. And, now, too, the American defence establishment. An ex-commanding officer of the US Marine Corps operations centre, Chris Naler, has recently joined Iota Global, a partner of the SCL group.

This is not just a story about social psychology and data analytics. It has to be understood in terms of a military contractor using military strategies on a civilian population. Us. David Miller, a professor of sociology at Bath University and an authority in psyops and propaganda, says it is ‘an extraordinary scandal that this should be anywhere near a democracy. ... n-hacking/
"It seems to be what we have now is a political system which has essentially become, for the last thirty or forty years, a war on the human imagination."
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Jun 18, 2017 3:11 pm

thanks :)

Eric Prince....military contractor

The Domestic Conspiracy Is Hiding In Plain Sight Erik Prince ... ce#p628350

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, well, Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge funder, his daughter Rebekah ran one of the most important super PACs to Trump, Make America Number 1 super PAC. And Trump—and Erik Prince and his mother, Elsa, were two of the largest contributors to one of the most significant super PACs that supported Donald Trump. Erik Prince is very close to Robert Mercer. Prince was also at the "Heroes and Villains" party that Mercer threw in Long Island after the election. And, in fact, there’s a picture that Peter Thiel, the right-wing billionaire who destroyed Gawker—a picture of Peter Thiel, Donald Trump and Erik Prince, that Peter Thiel says is not safe for the internet. But it’s clear that Erik Prince, through Betsy DeVos, through Robert Mercer and through his very right-wing paramilitary crowd, has the ear of President-elect Donald Trump. And our understanding, from a very well-placed source, is that Prince has even been advising Trump on his selections for the staffing of the Defense Department and the State Department. ... prince_the

In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter.

The Post reported in April that Erik Prince, the former founder of the private security firm Blackwater and an informal adviser to the Trump transition team, met on Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin. ... ump-Russia
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby Iamwhomiam » Sun Jun 18, 2017 5:15 pm

Mercer's Long Island Party House

The Owl's Nest
A short distance by yacht from Greenwich, or limousine from Manhattan (65 Miles),+St+James,+NY+11780/@40.9119654,-73.1612933,180m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x89e83eb5409d475f:0x2eadfd1d6da38884!8m2!3d40.911975!4d-73.160032





Staff Sues Head of the Harbor Billionaire For Watering Down Wages

Renaissance Technologies chief Robert Mercer allegedly stiffed service staff for failing to close a door, or restock shampoo and toiletries.

By Sara Walsh (Patch Staff) - Updated July 22, 2013 9:11 pm ET

Former household staff members are suing a Head of the Harbor billionaire for stiffing them on wages because they failed to close doors or make sure hanging pictures were level at his palace on the Long Island Sound.

Robert Mercer, co-chief executive officer of Setauket hedge fund Renaissance, is accused of taking money from household staff’s for each time they failed to replace a shampoo bottles, properly close doors and other service tasks around the mansion.

“This is a social justice case,” said Troy Kessler, Melville-based attorney representing the staff. “Domestic, low-wage workers are frequently taken advantage of and this case it’s particularly egregious.”

Kessler, along with Make the Road New York, a nonprofit organization seeking justice for latinos and working class communities, filed a lawsuit July 10 in Central Islip courts seeking more than $150,000 for Alba Aguilar, Luis E. Castro Alzate and Carmen Rodriguez. These three employees worked in Mercer’s home under Owl’s Nest Inc., a company Mercer created to hire his household staff, between June 2011 and January 2013.

The workers claim Mercer subtracted $10 to $20 from their semi-annual bonus checks for each time they earned a demerit such as “failing to replace shampoo bottles and other toiletries if there was an amount less than one-third of a bottle remaining,” and “failing to leave extra towels in the bathroom” and “close doors properly."

Other types of demerits includes included, “failing to change the razor blade in the shaver,” “failing to level a picture,” “leaving items in the refrigerator” and “improperly counting beverages,” according to the court complaint.

Kessler said New York State Labor Law prevents employers from making deductions earned by employees without their consent and prior authorization.

“I’ve handled with cases to unlawful wage deductions before, but I have never seen demerits for someone failing to close a door or refill toothpaste,” he said.

The former household staffers also claim they worked 50 to 65 hours a week without ever receiving overtime pay, or one and a half times their salary as required under New York Labor Law.

It’s difficult to know exactly how much the workers are owed, because all records of their hours and workweeks are in Mercer’s possession, according to the complaint.

Mercer’s Setauket-based hedge fund, co managed by top billionaire Jim Simons, is worth approximately $20 billion in net assets as of April, Bloomberg reports. Also, the complaint states Mercer was named one of the top-earning hedge fund managers by Forbes magazine.

Mercer's Owl's Nest palace garners one of the highest tax bills in Smithtown, at nearly $304,000 a year, according to Long Island Blockshopper[/url].

Phone calls to Owl’s Nest Inc. were not returned by Monday evening.

Originally published July 22, 2013.
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby Elvis » Sun Jun 18, 2017 8:04 pm

Iamwhomiam wrote:"Former household staff members are suing a Head of the Harbor billionaire for stiffing them on wages because they failed to close doors or make sure hanging pictures were level at his palace on the Long Island Sound."

"It seems to be what we have now is a political system which has essentially become, for the last thirty or forty years, a war on the human imagination."
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby Heaven Swan » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:30 am

Elvis » Sun Jun 18, 2017 8:04 pm wrote:
Iamwhomiam wrote:"Former household staff members are suing a Head of the Harbor billionaire for stiffing them on wages because they failed to close doors or make sure hanging pictures were level at his palace on the Long Island Sound."


The OCD-like tunnel vision that often accompanies sociopathy and autism can be very dangerous, even world-destroying when wielded by obsessive billionaires with staggering amounts of money and power.*

* see above article about Mercer's hedge fund's conflict with the IRS, and his statement about his fondness for solitary evenings crunching numbers accompanied only by the sound of his computers clicking in the night.
"When IT reigns, I’m poor.” Mario
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:09 pm

The Data That Turned the World Upside Down

Jan 28 2017, 8:15am
Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method to analyze people in minute detail based on their Facebook activity. Did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory? Two reporters from Zurich-based Das Magazin went data-gathering.​

An earlier version of this story appeared in Das Magazin in December.

On November 9 at around 8.30 AM., Michal Kosinski woke up in the Hotel Sunnehus in Zurich. The 34-year-old researcher had come to give a lecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) about the dangers of Big Data and the digital revolution. Kosinski gives regular lectures on this topic all over the world. He is a leading expert in psychometrics, a data-driven sub-branch of psychology. When he turned on the TV that morning, he saw that the bombshell had exploded: contrary to forecasts by all leading statisticians, Donald J. Trump had been elected president of the United States.

For a long time, Kosinski watched the Trump victory celebrations and the results coming in from each state. He had a hunch that the outcome of the election might have something to do with his research. Finally, he took a deep breath and turned off the TV.

On the same day, a then little-known British company based in London sent out a press release: "We are thrilled that our revolutionary approach to data-driven communication has played such an integral part in President-elect Trump's extraordinary win," Alexander James Ashburner Nix was quoted as saying. Nix is British, 41 years old, and CEO of Cambridge Analytica. He is always immaculately turned out in tailor-made suits and designer glasses, with his wavy blonde hair combed back from his forehead. His company wasn't just integral to Trump's online campaign, but to the UK's Brexit campaign as well.

Of these three players—reflective Kosinski, carefully groomed Nix and grinning Trump—one of them enabled the digital revolution, one of them executed it and one of them benefited from it.

How dangerous is big data?

Anyone who has not spent the last five years living on another planet will be familiar with the term Big Data. Big Data means, in essence, that everything we do, both on and offline, leaves digital traces. Every purchase we make with our cards, every search we type into Google, every movement we make when our mobile phone is in our pocket, every "like" is stored. Especially every "like." For a long time, it was not entirely clear what use this data could have—except, perhaps, that we might find ads for high blood pressure remedies just after we've Googled "reduce blood pressure."

On November 9, it became clear that maybe much more is possible. The company behind Trump's online campaign—the same company that had worked for Leave.EU in the very early stages of its "Brexit" campaign—was a Big Data company: Cambridge Analytica.

To understand the outcome of the election—and how political communication might work in the future—we need to begin with a strange incident at Cambridge University in 2014, at Kosinski's Psychometrics Center.

Psychometrics, sometimes also called psychographics, focuses on measuring psychological traits, such as personality. In the 1980s, two teams of psychologists developed a model that sought to assess human beings based on five personality traits, known as the "Big Five." These are: openness (how open you are to new experiences?), conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist are you?), extroversion (how sociable are you?), agreeableness (how considerate and cooperative you are?) and neuroticism (are you easily upset?). Based on these dimensions—they are also known as OCEAN, an acronym for openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism—we can make a relatively accurate assessment of the kind of person in front of us. This includes their needs and fears, and how they are likely to behave. The "Big Five" has become the standard technique of psychometrics. But for a long time, the problem with this approach was data collection, because it involved filling out a complicated, highly personal questionnaire. Then came the Internet. And Facebook. And Kosinski.

Michal Kosinski was a student in Warsaw when his life took a new direction in 2008. He was accepted by Cambridge University to do his PhD at the Psychometrics Centre, one of the oldest institutions of this kind worldwide. Kosinski joined fellow student David Stillwell (now a lecturer at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge) about a year after Stillwell had launched a little Facebook application in the days when the platform had not yet become the behemoth it is today. Their MyPersonality app enabled users to fill out different psychometric questionnaires, including a handful of psychological questions from the Big Five personality questionnaire ("I panic easily," "I contradict others"). Based on the evaluation, users received a "personality profile"—individual Big Five values—and could opt-in to share their Facebook profile data with the researchers.

Followers of Lady Gaga were most probably extroverts, while those who "liked" philosophy tended to be introverts.

Kosinski had expected a few dozen college friends to fill in the questionnaire, but before long, hundreds, thousands, then millions of people had revealed their innermost convictions. Suddenly, the two doctoral candidates owned the largest dataset combining psychometric scores with Facebook profiles ever to be collected.

The approach that Kosinski and his colleagues developed over the next few years was actually quite simple. First, they provided test subjects with a questionnaire in the form of an online quiz. From their responses, the psychologists calculated the personal Big Five values of respondents. Kosinski's team then compared the results with all sorts of other online data from the subjects: what they "liked," shared or posted on Facebook, or what gender, age, place of residence they specified, for example. This enabled the researchers to connect the dots and make correlations.

Remarkably reliable deductions could be drawn from simple online actions. For example, men who "liked" the cosmetics brand MAC were slightly more likely to be gay; one of the best indicators for heterosexuality was "liking" Wu-Tang Clan. Followers of Lady Gaga were most probably extroverts, while those who "liked" philosophy tended to be introverts. While each piece of such information is too weak to produce a reliable prediction, when tens, hundreds, or thousands of individual data points are combined, the resulting predictions become really accurate.

Kosinski and his team tirelessly refined their models. In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook "likes" by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn't stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From the data it was even possible to deduce whether someone's parents were divorced.

The strength of their modeling was illustrated by how well it could predict a subject's answers. Kosinski continued to work on the models incessantly: before long, he was able to evaluate a person better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook "likes." Seventy "likes" were enough to outdo what a person's friends knew, 150 what their parents knew, and 300 "likes" what their partner knew. More "likes" could even surpass what a person thought they knew about themselves. On the day that Kosinski published these findings, he received two phone calls. The threat of a lawsuit and a job offer. Both from Facebook.

Michal Kosinski. Courtesy of Kosinski

Only weeks later Facebook "likes" became private by default. Before that, the default setting was that anyone on the internet could see your "likes." But this was no obstacle to data collectors: while Kosinski always asked for the consent of Facebook users, many apps and online quizzes today require access to private data as a precondition for taking personality tests. (Anybody who wants to evaluate themselves based on their Facebook "likes" can do so on Kosinski's website, and then compare their results to those of a classic Ocean questionnaire, like that of the Cambridge Psychometrics Center.)

Our smartphone, Kosinski concluded, is a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out, both consciously and unconsciously.

But it was not just about "likes" or even Facebook: Kosinski and his team could now ascribe Big Five values based purely on how many profile pictures a person has on Facebook, or how many contacts they have (a good indicator of extraversion). But we also reveal something about ourselves even when we're not online. For example, the motion sensor on our phone reveals how quickly we move and how far we travel (this correlates with emotional instability). Our smartphone, Kosinski concluded, is a vast psychological questionnaire that we are constantly filling out, both consciously and unconsciously.

Above all, however—and this is key—it also works in reverse: not only can psychological profiles be created from your data, but your data can also be used the other way round to search for specific profiles: all anxious fathers, all angry introverts, for example—or maybe even all undecided Democrats? Essentially, what Kosinski had invented was sort of a people search engine. He started to recognize the potential—but also the inherent danger—of his work.

To him, the internet had always seemed like a gift from heaven. What he really wanted was to give something back, to share. Data can be copied, so why shouldn't everyone benefit from it? It was the spirit of a whole generation, the beginning of a new era that transcended the limitations of the physical world. But what would happen, wondered Kosinski, if someone abused his people search engine to manipulate people? He began to add warnings to most of his scientific work. His approach, he warned, "could pose a threat to an individual's well-being, freedom, or even life." But no one seemed to grasp what he meant.

Around this time, in early 2014, Kosinski was approached by a young assistant professor in the psychology department called Aleksandr Kogan. He said he was inquiring on behalf of a company that was interested in Kosinski's method, and wanted to access the MyPersonality database. Kogan wasn't at liberty to reveal for what purpose; he was bound to secrecy.

At first, Kosinski and his team considered this offer, as it would mean a great deal of money for the institute, but then he hesitated. Finally, Kosinski remembers, Kogan revealed the name of the company: SCL, or Strategic Communication Laboratories. Kosinski Googled the company: "[We are] the premier election management agency," says the company's website. SCL provides marketing based on psychological modeling. One of its core focuses: Influencing elections. Influencing elections? Perturbed, Kosinski clicked through the pages. What kind of company was this? And what were these people planning?

What Kosinski did not know at the time: SCL is the parent of a group of companies. Who exactly owns SCL and its diverse branches is unclear, thanks to a convoluted corporate structure, the type seen in the UK Companies House, the Panama Papers, and the Delaware company registry. Some of the SCL offshoots have been involved in elections from Ukraine to Nigeria, helped the Nepalese monarch against the rebels, whereas others have developed methods to influence Eastern European and Afghan citizens for NATO. And, in 2013, SCL spun off a new company to participate in US elections: Cambridge Analytica.

Kosinski knew nothing about all this, but he had a bad feeling. "The whole thing started to stink," he recalls. On further investigation, he discovered that Aleksandr Kogan had secretly registered a company doing business with SCL. According to a December 2015 report in The Guardian and to internal company documents given to Das Magazin, it emerges that SCL learned about Kosinski's method from Kogan.

Kosinski came to suspect that Kogan's company might have reproduced the Facebook "Likes"-based Big Five measurement tool in order to sell it to this election-influencing firm. He immediately broke off contact with Kogan and informed the director of the institute, sparking a complicated conflict within the university. The institute was worried about its reputation. Aleksandr Kogan then moved to Singapore, married, and changed his name to Dr. Spectre. Michal Kosinski finished his PhD, got a job offer from Stanford and moved to the US.

Mr. Brexit

All was quiet for about a year. Then, in November 2015, the more radical of the two Brexit campaigns, "Leave.EU," supported by Nigel Farage, announced that it had commissioned a Big Data company to support its online campaign: Cambridge Analytica. The company's core strength: innovative political marketing—microtargeting—by measuring people's personality from their digital footprints, based on the OCEAN model.

After the Brexit result, friends and acquaintances wrote to him: Just look at what you've done.

Now Kosinski received emails asking what he had to do with it—the words Cambridge, personality, and analytics immediately made many people think of Kosinski. It was the first time he had heard of the company, which borrowed its name, it said, from its first employees, researchers from the university. Horrified, he looked at the website. Was his methodology being used on a grand scale for political purposes?
After the Brexit result, friends and acquaintances wrote to him: Just look at what you've done. Everywhere he went, Kosinski had to explain that he had nothing to do with this company. (It remains unclear how deeply Cambridge Analytica was involved in the Brexit campaign. Cambridge Analytica would not discuss such questions.)

For a few months, things are relatively quiet. Then, on September 19, 2016, just over a month before the US elections, the guitar riffs of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" fill the dark-blue hall of New York's Grand Hyatt hotel. The Concordia Summit is a kind of World Economic Forum in miniature. Decision-makers from all over the world have been invited, among them Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann. "Please welcome to the stage Alexander Nix, chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica," a smooth female voice announces. A slim man in a dark suit walks onto the stage. A hush falls. Many in attendance know that this is Trump's new digital strategy man. (A video of the presentation was posted on YouTube.)

A few weeks earlier, Trump had tweeted, somewhat cryptically, "Soon you'll be calling me Mr. Brexit." Political observers had indeed noticed some striking similarities between Trump's agenda and that of the right-wing Brexit movement. But few had noticed the connection with Trump's recent hiring of a marketing company named Cambridge Analytica.

Alexander Nix. Image: Cambridge Analytica

"Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven," says Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix

Up to this point, Trump's digital campaign had consisted of more or less one person: Brad Parscale, a marketing entrepreneur and failed start-up founder who created a rudimentary website for Trump for $1,500. The 70-year-old Trump is not digitally savvy—there isn't even a computer on his office desk. Trump doesn't do emails, his personal assistant once revealed. She herself talked him into having a smartphone, from which he now tweets incessantly.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, relied heavily on the legacy of the first "social-media president," Barack Obama. She had the address lists of the Democratic Party, worked with cutting-edge big data analysts from BlueLabs and received support from Google and DreamWorks. When it was announced in June 2016 that Trump had hired Cambridge Analytica, the establishment in Washington just turned up their noses. Foreign dudes in tailor-made suits who don't understand the country and its people? Seriously?

"It is my privilege to speak to you today about the power of Big Data and psychographics in the electoral process." The logo of Cambridge Analytica— a brain composed of network nodes, like a map, appears behind Alexander Nix. "Only 18 months ago, Senator Cruz was one of the less popular candidates," explains the blonde man in a cut-glass British accent, which puts Americans on edge the same way that a standard German accent can unsettle Swiss people. "Less than 40 percent of the population had heard of him," another slide says. Cambridge Analytica had become involved in the US election campaign almost two years earlier, initially as a consultant for Republicans Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Cruz—and later Trump—was funded primarily by the secretive US software billionaire Robert Mercer who, along with his daughter Rebekah, is reported to be the largest investor in Cambridge Analytica.

"So how did he do this?" Up to now, explains Nix, election campaigns have been organized based on demographic concepts. "A really ridiculous idea. The idea that all women should receive the same message because of their gender—or all African Americans because of their race." What Nix meant is that while other campaigners so far have relied on demographics, Cambridge Analytica was using psychometrics.

Though this might be true, Cambridge Analytica's role within Cruz's campaign isn't undisputed. In December 2015 the Cruz team credited their rising success to psychological use of data and analytics. In Advertising Age, a political client said the embedded Cambridge staff was "like an extra wheel," but found their core product, Cambridge's voter data modeling, still "excellent." The campaign would pay the company at least $5.8 million to help identify voters in the Iowa caucuses, which Cruz won, before dropping out of the race in May.

Nix clicks to the next slide: five different faces, each face corresponding to a personality profile. It is the Big Five or OCEAN Model. "At Cambridge," he said, "we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America." The hall is captivated. According to Nix, the success of Cambridge Analytica's marketing is based on a combination of three elements: behavioral science using the OCEAN Model, Big Data analysis, and ad targeting. Ad targeting is personalized advertising, aligned as accurately as possible to the personality of an individual consumer.

Nix candidly explains how his company does this. First, Cambridge Analytica buys personal data from a range of different sources, like land registries, automotive data, shopping data, bonus cards, club memberships, what magazines you read, what churches you attend. Nix displays the logos of globally active data brokers like Acxiom and Experian—in the US, almost all personal data is for sale. For example, if you want to know where Jewish women live, you can simply buy this information, phone numbers included. Now Cambridge Analytica aggregates this data with the electoral rolls of the Republican party and online data and calculates a Big Five personality profile. Digital footprints suddenly become real people with fears, needs, interests, and residential addresses.

The methodology looks quite similar to the one that Michal Kosinski once developed. Cambridge Analytica also uses, Nix told us, "surveys on social media" and Facebook data. And the company does exactly what Kosinski warned of: "We have profiled the personality of every adult in the United States of America—220 million people," Nix boasts.

He opens the screenshot. "This is a data dashboard that we prepared for the Cruz campaign." A digital control center appears. On the left are diagrams; on the right, a map of Iowa, where Cruz won a surprisingly large number of votes in the primary. And on the map, there are hundreds of thousands of small red and blue dots. Nix narrows down the criteria: "Republicans"—the blue dots disappear; "not yet convinced"—more dots disappear; "male", and so on. Finally, only one name remains, including age, address, interests, personality and political inclination. How does Cambridge Analytica now target this person with an appropriate political message?

Alexander Nix at the 2016 Concordia Summit in New York. Image: Concordia Summit

Nix shows how psychographically categorized voters can be differently addressed, based on the example of gun rights, the 2nd Amendment: "For a highly neurotic and conscientious audience the threat of a burglary—and the insurance policy of a gun." An image on the left shows the hand of an intruder smashing a window. The right side shows a man and a child standing in a field at sunset, both holding guns, clearly shooting ducks: "Conversely, for a closed and agreeable audience. People who care about tradition, and habits, and family."

How to keep Clinton voters away from the ballot box

Trump's striking inconsistencies, his much-criticized fickleness, and the resulting array of contradictory messages, suddenly turned out to be his great asset: a different message for every voter. The notion that Trump acted like a perfectly opportunistic algorithm following audience reactions is something the mathematician Cathy O'Neil observed in August 2016.

These "dark posts"—sponsored Facebook posts that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators, for example.

"Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven," Alexander Nix remembers. On the day of the third presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Trump's team tested 175,000 different ad variations for his arguments, in order to find the right versions above all via Facebook. The messages differed for the most part only in microscopic details, in order to target the recipients in the optimal psychological way: different headings, colors, captions, with a photo or video. This fine-tuning reaches all the way down to the smallest groups, Nix explained in an interview with us. "We can address villages or apartment blocks in a targeted way. Even individuals."

In the Miami district of Little Haiti, for instance, Trump's campaign provided inhabitants with news about the failure of the Clinton Foundation following the earthquake in Haiti, in order to keep them from voting for Hillary Clinton. This was one of the goals: to keep potential Clinton voters (which include wavering left-wingers, African-Americans, and young women) away from the ballot box, to "suppress" their vote, as one senior campaign official told Bloomberg in the weeks before the election. These "dark posts"—sponsored news-feed-style ads in Facebook timelines that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators, for example.

Nix finishes his lecture at the Concordia Summit by stating that traditional blanket advertising is dead. "My children will certainly never, ever understand this concept of mass communication." And before leaving the stage, he announced that since Cruz had left the race, the company was helping one of the remaining presidential candidates.

Just how precisely the American population was being targeted by Trump's digital troops at that moment was not visible, because they attacked less on mainstream TV and more with personalized messages on social media or digital TV. And while the Clinton team thought it was in the lead, based on demographic projections, Bloomberg journalist Sasha Issenberg was surprised to note on a visit to San Antonio—where Trump's digital campaign was based—that a "second headquarters" was being created. The embedded Cambridge Analytica team, apparently only a dozen people, received $100,000 from Trump in July, $250,000 in August, and $5 million in September. According to Nix, the company earned over $15 million overall. (The company is incorporated in the US, where laws regarding the release of personal data are more lax than in European Union countries. Whereas European privacy laws require a person to "opt in" to a release of data, those in the US permit data to be released unless a user "opts out.")

Groundgame, an app for election canvassing that integrates voter data with "geospatial visualization technology," was used by campaigners for Trump and Brexit. Image: L2

The measures were radical: From July 2016, Trump's canvassers were provided with an app with which they could identify the political views and personality types of the inhabitants of a house. It was the same app provider used by Brexit campaigners. Trump's people only rang at the doors of houses that the app rated as receptive to his messages. The canvassers came prepared with guidelines for conversations tailored to the personality type of the resident. In turn, the canvassers fed the reactions into the app, and the new data flowed back to the dashboards of the Trump campaign.

Again, this is nothing new. The Democrats did similar things, but there is no evidence that they relied on psychometric profiling. Cambridge Analytica, however, divided the US population into 32 personality types, and focused on just 17 states. And just as Kosinski had established that men who like MAC cosmetics are slightly more likely to be gay, the company discovered that a preference for cars made in the US was a great indication of a potential Trump voter. Among other things, these findings now showed Trump which messages worked best and where. The decision to focus on Michigan and Wisconsin in the final weeks of the campaign was made on the basis of data analysis. The candidate became the instrument for implementing a big data model.


What's Next?

But to what extent did psychometric methods influence the outcome of the election? When asked, Cambridge Analytica was unwilling to provide any proof of the effectiveness of its campaign. And it is quite possible that the question is impossible to answer.

And yet there are clues: There is the fact of the surprising rise of Ted Cruz during the primaries. Also there was an increased number of voters in rural areas. There was the decline in the number of African-American early votes. The fact that Trump spent so little money may also be explained by the effectiveness of personality-based advertising. As does the fact that he invested far more in digital than TV campaigning compared to Hillary Clinton. Facebook proved to be the ultimate weapon and the best election campaigner, as Nix explained, and as comments by several core Trump campaigners demonstrate.

Cambridge Analytica counts among its clients the U.S. State Department, and has been reported to have communicated with British Prime Minister Theresa May, pictured here with Secretary of State John Kerry on July 19, 2016. Image: U.S. Dept. of State

Many voices have claimed that the statisticians lost the election because their predictions were so off the mark. But what if statisticians in fact helped win the election—but only those who were using the new method? It is an irony of history that Trump, who often grumbled about scientific research, used a highly scientific approach in his campaign.


Another big winner is Cambridge Analytica. Its board member Steve Bannon, former executive chair of the right-wing online newspaper Breitbart News, has been appointed as Donald Trump's senior counselor and chief strategist. Whilst Cambridge Analytica is not willing to comment on alleged ongoing talks with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Alexander Nix claims that he is building up his client base worldwide, and that he has received inquiries from Switzerland, Germany, and Australia. His company is currently touring European conferences showcasing their success in the United States. This year three core countries of the EU are facing elections with resurgent populist parties: France, Holland and Germany. The electoral successes come at an opportune time, as the company is readying for a push into commercial advertising.

Kosinski has observed all of this from his office at Stanford. Following the US election, the university is in turmoil. Kosinski is responding to developments with the sharpest weapon available to a researcher: a scientific analysis. Together with his research colleague Sandra Matz, he has conducted a series of tests, which will soon be published. The initial results are alarming: The study shows the effectiveness of personality targeting by showing that marketers can attract up to 63 percent more clicks and up to 1,400 more conversions in real-life advertising campaigns on Facebook when matching products and marketing messages to consumers' personality characteristics. They further demonstrate the scalability of personality targeting by showing that the majority of Facebook Pages promoting products or brands are affected by personality and that large numbers of consumers can be accurately targeted based on a single Facebook Page.

In a statement after the German publication of this article, a Cambridge Analytica spokesperson said, "Cambridge Analytica does not use data from Facebook. It has had no dealings with Dr. Michal Kosinski. It does not subcontract research. It does not use the same methodology. Psychographics was hardly used at all. Cambridge Analytica did not engage in efforts to discourage any Americans from casting their vote in the presidential election. Its efforts were solely directed towards increasing the number of voters in the election."

The world has been turned upside down. Great Britain is leaving the EU, Donald Trump is president of the United States of America. And in Stanford, Kosinski, who wanted to warn against the danger of using psychological targeting in a political setting, is once again receiving accusatory emails. "No," says Kosinski, quietly and shaking his head. "This is not my fault. I did not build the bomb. I only showed that it exists." ... -trump-win
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Oct 03, 2017 3:55 pm



Billionaire Robert Mercer and his wife Diana donated almost $200,000 to the legal defense fund of the Republican Party on the day that President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, financial filings show.

The combined $193,400 donation the Mercers made on May 9 went to the GOP legal fund that Trump has been drawing from to pay the lawyers defending him during the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

The Mercers are just one of several billionaire couples donating heavily to the fund in recent months, according to the filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Billionaires are footing the bill for President Donald Trump's Russia investigation lawyers through a GOP legal fund.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probing whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired Comey as well as whether the Trump campaign assisted Russia in a hacking campaigns to help the billionaire property developer beat his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

The Mercers have been linked to this investigation through their stake in the data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica and involvement in the Trump campaign. They own a $10 million share in the firm which helped the Trump campaign use granular data to target ads at specific American voters on Facebook.

The Mercers first began to play a central role in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign after the New York City real estate mogul won the Republican nomination. They helped bring on board figures like advisor Kellyanne Conway and Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, who chaired the campaign until Trump’s election victory November 8.

The couple did not respond to a request for comment sent to Mercer’s hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, by Newsweek.

House Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat and member of the House Intelligence Committee, has said she thinks “the Russians had help” from inside the U.S. and that she’s “always wondered if Cambridge Analytica was part of that.” Trump’s former campaign rival Hillary Clinton made similar accusations during an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air last month.

Yet no evidence linking the firm to the Kremlin’s effort to meddle in the election, or of any other wrongdoing, has emerged. The Mercers are not accused of any wrongdoing.

To fund his legal defense against the Russia investigation, Trump has dipped into the donation pot at the Republican National Committee (RNC) that the Mercers contributed to, as well as donations to his re-election campaign, Reuters revealed September 19.

CNN reported that in August the RNC paid out $230,000—giving John Dowd, Trump’s lead lawyer on the Russia investigation, $100,000 and $131,250 to attorney Jay Sekulow and his firm the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group.

ABC News confirmed these details with the RNC, as well as the fact the Republican Party paid nearly $200,000 of Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr.’s legal bills. Trump Jr.’s lawyer Alan Futerfas got $166,527.50 and $30,102.90 went to the law firm Williams & Jensen. These payments will show up on the RNC's September disclosure.

The RNC did not respond to Newsweek ’s questions about whether funds had gone to any other Trump lawyers such as the president’s former lead Russia investigation counsel Marc Kasowitz.

Trump Jr. became a person of interest in Mueller’s Russia investigation after The New York Times revealed in July that he met with a Russian lawyer and a former Soviet counter intelligence officer at Trump Tower with other key Trump campaign figures. The meeting was organized after Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Clinton from Moscow.

Trump Jr. said later they discussed adoptions—coded language for American sanctions that freeze the assets of corrupt Russian oligarchs.

Trump Jr. and his father haven’t only benefited from donations made by the Mercers. Several other billionaire couples have made increasingly large contributions to the RNC’s “legal proceedings account” in recent months also.

In July, as many as four billionaire families gave a total of $711,900 to the RNC’s legal defense fund according to FEC filings. In June the RNC’s fundraising records show a total of $207,700 poured in, and $334,900 was given by as many as five donors in May.

Among the donors are The Home Depot’s billionaire co-founder Bernard Marcus and his wife Wilma, who gave a combined $203,400 to the RNC’s legal defense fund in July. Marcus has been a fierce supporter of Trump and wrote in an opinion piece last year that “the fate of this nation depends upon sending him, and not Hillary Clinton, to the White House.”

In July investor Charles Schwab—founder of the bank and brokerage firm the Charles Schwab Corporation—also gave the maximum individual donation of $101,700 to the RNC’s legal defense account.

One the largest investors in energy pipelines in the U.S., Richard Kayne and his wife Suzanne, donated a combined $203,400 as well.

Yet among these people Robert Mercer was the only one to be named one of the “top 10 most influential billionaires in politics,” alongside Rupert Murdoch, George Soros and the Koch brothers by The Washington Post in 2015. The couple reportedly spent $25 million in the 2016 campaign.

On top of their $193,400 contribution to the Republican Party’s legal defense fund this year, the Mercers also donated a combined $406,800 divided among the RNC’s presidential nominating convention and national party headquarter accounts, for a grand total of $600,200.

“Donors can choose which account their contribution should go to,” said Judith Ingram, a spokesperson for the FEC, pointing out that the Mercers would have specifically asked the donations to be given to the legal defense fund.

Ingram noted that the FEC has no written regulations on the legal defense fund accounts and could not detail “any constraints on their use.”

According to election law experts, Trump is the first American president in the modern era to cover the cost of defending himself in a criminal probe with campaign funds. Usually the funds are used for routine campaign legal fees.

The RNC says it has not committed to continuing to pay for Trump and his son’t legal bills as the Russia investigation continues.

Robert Mercer is “not the first person in history to use money in politics, but in my view Trump wouldn’t be President if not for Bob,” said Nick Patterson, a former senior employee at Mercer’s hedge fund, in a March interview with The New Yorker.

“Bob has used his money very effectively,” Patterson said, reffering to Trump's election win. “It doesn’t get much more effective than that.” ... red-676383
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:52 pm

Russia Probe Now Investigating Cambridge Analytica, Trump’s ‘Psychographic’ Data Gurus

They were once Steve Bannon’s favorite analytics shop. Now investigators want to know if the Kremlin had a thing for Cambridge Analytica, too.

10.11.17 3:30 PM ET
A data firm backed by some of Donald Trump’s closest allies is now facing scrutiny as part of an investigation into possible collusion between the president’s team and Russian operatives, The Daily Beast has learned.
The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) is looking at Cambridge Analytica’s work for President Donald Trump’s campaign as part of its investigation into Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 race, according to sources familiar with the probe.
The company is in the process of turning over documents to HPSCI, according to a source familiar with the committee’s work. Another source close to the investigation said that the probe’s focus on Cambridge Analytica is “fruitful.”
Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, had holdings in Cambridge Analytica worth between $1 million and $5 million as recently as April of this year, Bloomberg reported. Bannon, now back as the chairman of the pro-Trump media outlet Breitbart, hasn’t been publicly mentioned as a potential witness for or target of Russia investigators. He previously sat on the board of Cambridge Analytica.
Another key Cambridge Analytica investor is Robert Mercer, the reclusive hedge fund billionaire who also generously backed Trump’s presidential campaign. Mercer and his daughter Rebekah introduced several top officials to Trump’s campaign, including Kellyanne Conway and Bannon. The Mercers also are partial owners of Breitbart—among their many, many investment in far-right media outlets, think tanks, and political campaigns.
“Cambridge purports to go beyond the typical voter targeting to construct a picture of a voter’s mental state.”
A recent Vanity Fair piece highlighted speculation among Washington Democrats that the Trump campaign’s data operation could point to collusion between Trump and Russia.
Cambridge purports to go beyond the typical voter targeting—relying on online clues like Facebook Likes to give a hint at a user’s political leanings and construct a picture of a voter’s mental state. The “psychographic” picture Cambridge ostensibly provides to a campaign is the ability to tailor a specific message based on personality type – angry, fearful, optimistic and so forth – rather than simply aiming ads at voters from likely convivial candidates.

Those purported capabilities have generated some speculation that there was a Russian link to the outfit, as Vanity Fair detailed. The Kremlin-orchestrated propaganda efforts on Facebook have evinced a level of sophistication surprising for a foreign entity, prompting speculation that Russians may have received some kind of targeting help. Such targeting reached voters in states where Clinton enjoyed a traditional advantage but went for Trump, including Michigan and Wisconsin, CNN reported.

As The Daily Beast and others have reported, Russian propaganda on Facebook and other social-media platforms passed itself off as authentic American voices; targeting refugees, posing as an American Muslim group and backing an Atlanta-based duo supporting Black Lives Matter. Depending on which cohort was being targeted, the efforts encouraged pro-Trump voters to intensify political participation, black voters to abandon Hillary Clinton for Trump, and Muslim voters to consider Clinton an Islamophobe.

The congressional inquiry is not the only one Cambridge Analytica is facing. The UK Information Commissioner, Britain’s privacy watchdog, in March began examining the firm’s role in the successful 2016 push to persuade British voters to “Brexit” the European Union. But Cambridge has said it never actually advised the campaign beyond initial discussions, despite’s own statements that the firm “will be helping us map the British electorate and what they believe in, enabling us to better engage with voters.”
In May, the Guardian’s Sunday Observer reported that Cambridge Analytica and its UK affiliate SCL––which owns 10 percent of Cambridge Analytica to Mercer’s 90 percent––have worked in Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Iran and Moldova.
“Multiple Cambridge Analytica sources have revealed other links to Russia, including trips to the country, meetings with executives from Russian state-owned companies, and references by SCL employees to working for Russian entities,” the Observer reported.

A Cambridge spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast that the company is cooperating with the House probe.
“As one of the companies that played a prominent role in the election campaign, Cambridge Analytica has been asked by the House Intelligence Committee to provide it with information that might help its investigation. We believe that other organizations that worked on the campaign have been asked to do the same,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “As you know, CA is not under investigation, and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the company.”
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a top White House advisor, played a role in Cambridge Analytica’s work. A cover story in Forbes published shortly after the election noted that “Kushner’s crew” brought on the firm “to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most...”
Kushner’s attorney declined to comment. A spokesperson for Bannon did not immediately return a request for comment for this piece.
““People think they’re dealing with evil masterminds, when they’re really just Keystone Cops.””
The admiration for Cambridge was hardly universal, however. “I just don't think it works,” Trump campaign digital director Brad Parscale told 60 Minutes for its October 8 broadcast.
Numerous sources familiar with the company downplayed its effectiveness to The Daily Beast. One longtime Republican data operative put it this way: “People think they’re dealing with evil masterminds, when they’re really just Keystone Cops.”
The firm developed a bad-boy reputation in the early months of the 2016 campaign season, buoyed by its aggressive PR operation. One of the early pieces on it, published by Politico on July 7, 2015, reported the firm is connected to SCL Group, a company that provided “military disinformation campaigns,” among other services. And Cambridge Analytica’s claim to target ads by using “psychographic profiles” generated significant buzz—and significant pushback to that buzz.
A former Trump campaign staffer familiar with Cambridge Analytica’s work on the campaign downplayed its role.
“The news on Cambridge Analytica is not whether they colluded with the Russians or not,” the former staffer told The Daily Beast. “It’s how little work they did for the Trump campaign and the fact that they did zero psychographic data work.”
Another longtime Republican operative said it was unlikely the company would have had anything valuable to offer Russians.
“What were they going to do, send them a voter file?” the operative said. “Shit, you think the Russians can’t get a hold of a voter file if they want?”
The House inquiry has much on its plate before next week’s recess. Members of the panel have been asked to block out four hours for interviews on Friday, though it is unclear if those interviews concern Cambridge Analytica. One invited witness, The Daily Beast has learned, is Samantha Power, the United Nations ambassador under Barack Obama.
UPDATE 3:55 PM: This story has been updated to include Cambridge Analytica's confirmation that it is providing documents to the House probe. ... data-gurus
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Oct 14, 2017 1:44 pm

An intern at the Trump campaign data firm, Cambridge Analytica, left sensitive voter targeting tools online for nearly a year
Natasha Bertrand

An intern at the data mining and analysis firm Cambridge Analytica left online for nearly a year what appears to be programming instructions for the voter targeting tools the company used around the time of the election, raising questions about who could have accessed the tools and to what end.

Social media analyst and data scientist Jonathan Albright discovered the election data processing scripts — or programming instructions — on what he said was the intern's personal GitHub account. GitHub, a "Facebook for programmers," is an internet hosting service mostly used for code.

The account was scrubbed less than an hour after Albright published his findings on Medium, but the scripts had already been archived.

Cambridge Analytica, which mined and analyzed voter data for the Trump campaign last year, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A LinkedIn account that appears to belong to the intern identified by Albright lists him as a "Data Science Intern" for Cambridge Analytica between March and June of 2016.

The tools the intern appears to have extracted facilitated geolocation targeting, to be used in enriching voter files with GPS coordinates, and Twitter sentiment analysis — essentially, the process of determining someone's position on an issue by analyzing tweets and pulling data from users discussing certain topics.

The tool was used to find and group people on Twitter that talked about, or responded to, specific keywords in retweets.

Albright, who heads Columbia's Tow Center for Digital Journalism and recently published extensive research on Russia's use of Facebook during the election, said Cambridge Analytica's real-time social media mining tool was not necessarily complex or novel in and of itself.

What is more interesting, he said, is how the tool appeared to retrieve people's recent tweets and favorites to "expand" Cambridge Analytica's body of keywords "around specific objects of election 'outrage' sentiment'" — like abortion, citizenship, naturalization, guns, and Planned Parenthood.

Recent reporting has revealed that Russia harnessed and harvested "outrage" sentiment in an attempt to galvanize and sway voters during the campaign. Accounts linked to Russia bought $100,000 worth of Facebook ads between 2015 and 2016, many of which promoted outsider candidates and exploited racial tensions. Similar methods were deployed on Twitter, Google, Instagram, Pinterest — and even Pokemon Go, as CNN reported earlier this week.

Additionally, the intern appeared to have left Cambridge Analytica's Twitter API secret and key online when he uploaded the scripts. The secret and key, which was removed in February, amounts to the account username and password that companies and developers use to search and pull tweets and user profile information from Twitter, Albright explained.

Albright said the code for the tools was "sitting right on Github for almost a year: from March 2016 to February 2017 — the last 8 months of the US election."

"That's a security issue, in my opinion," Albright added. "Could Russia find this and use it? Absolutely."

Only Twitter would be able to definitively reveal whether the accidentally copied-and-pasted API key belonged to Cambridge Analytica, according to Albright.

But because of the social media's terms of service and privacy protections for developers, the information could likely only be obtained via a subpoena. The House Intelligence Committee is scrutinizing Cambridge Analytica as part of its investigation into whether any collusion occurred between the campaign and Russia, The Daily Beast reported last week.

Still, Albright said, "s howing the actual code in two of their scripts is one of the few pieces of evidence that can break through the noise and puffery around Cambridge Analytica. While code is not a person, it’s the ultimate journalistic source for a CA-related election story."

Albright argued in a post on Medium that the question of Cambridge Analytica's ownership — "a foreign business previously registered in the United States as a foreign corporation" — is now more relevant than ever.

"Foreign influence —  sound familiar?" he wrote.

The company was founded in 2013 as an offshoot of its British parent company, SLC Group, and is partially owned by Robert Mercer — a hedge fund billionaire, Trump supporter, and top investor in Breitbart.

Twitter last week gave the Senate Intelligence Committee the profile names, or "handles," of 201 accounts it believes were operating out of Russia during the election. But Politico reported Friday that much of the data that could be useful in examining the extent of Russia's Twitter operation was deleted by the company. ... ca-2017-10

Cambridge Analytica: the Geotargeting and Emotional Data Mining Scripts
Last year, Michael Phillips, a data science intern at Cambridge Analytica, posted the following scripts to a set of “work samples” on his personal GitHub account. ... c3c428d77f

The account was scrubbed less than an hour after Albright published his findings on Medium, but the scripts had already been archived. ... c3c428d77f

web archive

Potential voter data backchannel uncovered between Donald Trump campaign and Russian hackers
Bill Palmer
Updated: 1:35 pm EDT Sat Oct 14, 2017
Home » Politics

As investigators and the media continue to try to pinpoint how the Donald Trump campaign and the Russian government were conspiring to use voter data to rig the 2016 election, much of the focus has been on data analysis company Cambridge Analytica. Now a data scientist has uncovered what could have been a backchannel for the Trump campaign to use the company to steer Russian hackers in the right direction.

Professor Jonathan Albright has discovered that a Cambridge Analytica intern posted the company’s voter targeting algorithms to an online personal account just after Super Tuesday, and then bizarrely left them there for the entirety of the election. The intern listed them as “work samples” but it’s difficult to believe that any intern would have been publicly posting his company’s secret algorithms just to show off his skills. It raises the question of whether this was how the company was clandestinely making its secret algorithms available to Russian hackers in plain sight.

Cambridge Analytica has largely been funded by the Mercer family, which also heavily funded the Donald Trump campaign. Furthermore, Steve Bannon was running Cambridge Analytica at the time he was hired to run the Trump campaign. It has long been widely suspected, but never proven, that the company was working with U.S. voter data that had been supplied by the Russian hackers who tried to get into the voter registration databases of dozens of states during the election. Proving this suspicion would require uncovering potential communication channels between the company and the Russians.

If it turns out the Cambridge Analytica intern’s posting was indeed an intentional method of backdoor communication between the company and Russian hackers, it may open the door to exposing the full extent of the collusion that’s suspected to have taken place. You can read Professor Albright’s full research findings link) ... ssia/5505/
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Oct 16, 2017 9:32 am

Cambridge Analytica, the shady data firm that might be a key Trump-Russia link, explained

Why House investigators think this company might have helped Russia spread fake news.

Updated by Sean Oct 16, 2017, 8:50am EDT

The Daily Beast reported last week that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is looking into a data analytics company called Cambridge Analytica as part of its investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.

Cambridge Analytica specializes in what’s called “psychographic” profiling, meaning they use data collected online to create personality profiles for voters. They then take that information and target individuals with specifically tailored content (more on this below).

According to the Daily Beast report, congressional investigators believe that Russian hackers might have received help in their efforts to distribute “fake news” and other forms of misinformation during the 2016 campaign. Hence the focus on Cambridge Analytica.

So far there’s been a lot of speculation about the potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and most of the stories have orbited around the financial dealings of the Trump family and people like Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. But this story is specifically about how team Trump might have facilitated Russia’s meddling in the US presidential election.

The stakes, in other words, are high.

So here’s what we know about Cambridge Analytica, its connections to the Trump campaign, and what sorts of things the House Intel probe is likely looking into.

Trump’s digital army
In June 2016, the Trump campaign hired Cambridge Analytica to take over its data operations.

We know from the reporting of Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim at the New York Times that Jared Kushner, who was charged with overseeing Trump’s digital operations, is the reason Cambridge Analytica joined the Trump campaign.

Kushner hired a man named Brad Parscale, a Texas-based digital expert who had worked previously for team Trump. According to Confessore and Hakim, Cambridge Analytica convinced Parscale (who has since agreed to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee) to “try out the firm.” The decision was reinforced by Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannon, who is also a former vice president of Cambridge Analytica.

It’s not clear to what extent Cambridge Analytica helped (Parscale denied that Cambridge was of any use in a recent 60 Minutes interview), but we do know that Trump’s digital operation was shockingly effective. Samuel Woolley, who heads the Computational Propaganda project at Oxford’s Internet Institute, found that a disproportionate amount of pro-Trump messaging was spread via automated bots and anti-Hillary propaganda. Trump’s bots, they reported at the time of the election, outnumbered Clinton’s five to one.

Pro-Trump programmers “carefully adjusted the timing of content production during the debates, strategically colonized pro-Clinton hashtags, and then disabled activities after Election Day.”

Martin Moore, director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at King’s College, told the Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr that Trump’s campaign “was using 40-50,000 variants of ads every day that were continuously measuring responses and then adapting and evolving based on that response.”

These online ads were spread primarily thought bots on social media platforms. The ads that got liked, shared, and retweeted the most were reproduced and redistributed based on where they were popular and who they appealed to.

The benefit of this kind of data is that it allows data companies like Cambridge Analytica to develop more sophisticated psychological profiles of internet users (more data points means more predictive power).

Cambridge Analytica was also able to use this real-time information to determine which messages were resonating where and then shape Trump’s travel schedule around it. So, if there was a spike in clicks on an article about immigration in a county in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, Trump would go there and give an immigration-focused speech.

When you consider how a few thousands votes in a handful of swing states determined the election, this is no small thing.

President Trump Attends National Prayer Breakfast
Then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn listens to remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast where US President Donald Trump spoke February 2, 2017, in Washington, DC. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
Flynn and the Russians
In early July, Shane Harris of the Wall Street Journal released a series of reports that offered some of the most compelling evidence yet that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian hackers.

Harris interviewed a man named Peter Smith, a pro-Trump GOP operative who sought to acquire the 30,000 deleted emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server. Of the several hacker groups Smith reached out to, at least two had connections to Russia — that’s according to Smith.

Smith told Harris that he was in regular contact with Gen. Michael Flynn, who at the time was one of Trump’s closest confidants — and of course later became Trump’s national security adviser.

Here’s a key passage from the Harris report, which my Vox colleague Andrew Prokop highlighted at the time:

“He [Smith] said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this — if you find anything, can you let me know?’” said Eric York, a computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched hacker forums on Mr. Smith’s behalf for people who might have access to the emails. ...

...In phone conversations, Mr. Smith told a computer expert he was in direct contact with Mr. Flynn and his son, according to this expert. ... The expert said that based on his conversations with Mr. Smith, he understood the elder Mr. Flynn to be coordinating with Mr. Smith’s group in his capacity as a Trump campaign adviser.
Harris examined intelligence reports that described the efforts of Russian hackers to retrieve emails from Clinton’s server and pass them along to Flynn, who would then share them with the Trump campaign.

By itself, Harris’s reporting makes no connection to Cambridge Analytica. But in August the Associated Press published a report that helped connect the dots. In an amended public financial filing, Flynn was forced to disclose “a brief advisory role with a firm related to a controversial data analysis company that aided the Trump campaign.”

The “data analysis company” is none other than Cambridge Analytica. The precise amount of money Cambridge paid to Flynn is unknown, as are the details of Flynn’s role.

But we know that congressional and DOJ investigators believe that Trump’s campaign might have helped guide Russia’s voter targeting scheme and that Flynn, who worked for Trump’s campaign and with Cambridge Analytica, is suspected of having extensive ties with Russian operatives.

A Cambridge Analytica spokesperson confirmed to Vox that the company is cooperating with the Russia investigation but flatly denied any wrongdoing.

“As one of the companies that played a prominent role in the election campaign, Cambridge Analytica has been asked by the House Intelligence Committee to provide it with information that might help its investigation,” the statement said. “We believe that other organizations that worked on the campaign have been asked to do the same. CA is not under investigation, and there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the company.”

What does Cambridge Analytica actually do?
If you use the internet or social media, you leave behind a digital trail of crumbs. Every post you like, every tweet you retweet, every thread you participate in — it’s all data up for collection and input.

Cambridge Analytica, a company created by Robert Mercer, a billionaire patron of right-wing outlets like Breitbart News, has been swallowing up all the data they can get. They’re not the only company doing this, but they appear to be the most prominent — in part because of their high-profile clients.

In a 2016 speech, Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, unfurled the company’s methodology: “We’ve rolled out a long-form quantitative instrument to probe the underlying traits that inform personality,” he proclaimed. “If you know the personality of the people you’re targeting, you can nuance your messaging to resonate more effectively with those key groups.”

By “your message” he means whoever pays the company for its services. But so far the firm has only taken on Republican clients, with Ted Cruz and Ben Carson being the most visible. They also worked on behalf of 2016 pro-Brexit “Leave” campaign, mining online data and using it to target and persuade British voters.

So what are they doing with all that data?
Cambridge Analytica has built models that translate the data they harvest into personality profiles for every American adult — Nix claims to have “somewhere close to 4 or 5 thousand data points on every adult in the US.”

Their models are based on the psychometric research of Michal Kosinski, who in 2013 was still a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge (hence the name “Cambridge Analytica”). Kosinski and his colleagues developed a model that linked subjects’ Facebook likes with their OCEAN scores. OCEAN refers to a questionnaire used by psychologists that describes personalities along five dimensions — openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Cambridge Analytica has combined this social psychology with data analytics. They collect data from Facebook and Twitter (which is perfectly legal) and have purchased an array of other data — about television preferences, airline travel, shopping habits, church attendance, what books you buy, what magazines you subscribe to — from third-party organizations and so-called data brokers.

They take all this information and use it for what Nix calls “behavioral microtargeting” — basically individualized advertising.

Instead of tailoring ads according to demographics, they use psychometrics. It’s a simple idea, really. Rather than assuming that all women or African Americans or working-class whites will respond to the same message, they target individual voters with emotionally charged content — in other words, ads designed to tug on emotional biases.

The success of this approach hinges on the accuracy of the company’s psychological profiles. But how much can they know about someone’s psyche on the basis of a few tweets or likes? Quite a lot, apparently. In a 2016 profile for Das Magazin, a Berlin-based culture magazine, Kosinski talked about the predictive power of his model.

Here’s how the authors summed it up:

The strength of their [Kosinski and his Cambridge colleagues] modeling was illustrated by how well it could predict a subject's answers. Kosinski continued to work on the models incessantly: before long, he was able to evaluate a person better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook "likes." Seventy "likes" were enough to outdo what a person's friends knew, 150 what their parents knew, and 300 "likes" what their partner knew. More "likes" could even surpass what a person thought they knew about themselves.
Combine this kind of predictive power with an army of bots and you’ve got a potent propaganda tool. As Woolley told me, “One person controlling a thousand bot accounts is able to not just affect the people in their immediate circle but also potentially the algorithm of the site on which their operating.”

Bots are even more effective, as they’re able to react instantly to trending topics on Twitter and Facebook, producing targeted posts, images, and even YouTube videos.

“The technologies can capture what people are thinking at a particular moment,” Albright told me, “and serve it back to them over and over again.” And with the benefit of psychographic profiling, he adds, they’re able to deliver “content on an individual basis on Twitter and Facebook feeds where people are being grabbed and pulled in certain directions through certain types of posts and stories.

“I’ve called it an emotional leash,” Woolley said.

Billionaire founder of Cambridge Analytica Robert Mercer speaks on the phone during the 12th International Conference on Climate Change hosted by The Heartland Institute on March 23, 2017, in Washington, DC. Mercer is also a key patron of Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, who until recently was a vice president of Cambridge Analytica. Getty Images
There’s a lot we don’t know
We don’t know if Flynn actually passed any data to the Russians. Nor do we know if his numerous ties to Russia resulted in collusion.

We don’t know if the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians to help their disinformation operation. We know only that there are many points of overlap. And if anyone in his campaign did coordinate with Russia, we don’t know if Trump himself was involved in any way.

We don’t know if the data produced by Cambridge Analytica ever found its way to Russians. And if it did, we don’t know for sure how it got there or how much it helped or if the company was aware of it.

We also don’t know how useful Cambridge Analytica’s work was to the Trump campaign. Researchers like Woolley told me that the company’s capabilities are a “bit overblown,” but we simply don’t know. We know only what they’ve admitted publicly about their methods and what they claim to be able to do.

One thing we do know is that data companies like Cambridge Analytica have changed things. Facebook is already under fire for allowing Russia to manipulate its algorithms during the 2016 election. And we’ve likely just scratched the surface in terms of how state actors are able to weaponize information online. The role of companies like Cambridge Analytica in these efforts remains something of a mystery, however.

In any event, no definitive evidence has emerged that connects Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign to Russia’s efforts to influence our election. What we’re left with, ultimately, is a ton of smoke and no fire. But if the ongoing investigations conclude that the Trump campaign did help Russia target voters, expect to hear more about Cambridge Analytica.

It’s entirely possible that such collusion could have occurred and the work of Cambridge Analytica had nothing to do with it; however, that would be strange, since targeting voters is precisely what the company was hired to do. ... ynn-russia
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Oct 25, 2017 11:24 am

Trump Data Guru: I Tried to Team Up With Julian Assange

The head of Cambridge Analytica said he asked the Wikileaks founder for help finding Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails.

Betsy Woodruff
10.25.17 10:30 AM ET
Alexander Nix, who heads a controversial data analytics firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign, wrote in an email last year that he reached out to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange about Hillary Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails.
Nix, who heads Cambridge Analytica, told a third party that he reached out to Assange about his firm somehow helping the Wikileaks founder release Clinton’s missing emails, according to two sources familiar with a Congressional investigation into interactions between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Those sources also relayed that, according to Nix’s email, Assange told the Cambridge Analytica CEO that he didn’t want his help, and preferred to do the work on his own.

If the claims Nix made in that email are true, this would be the closest known connection between Trump’s campaign and Assange.
Cambridge Analytica did not provide comment for this story by press time.
After publication, Wikileaks editor Julian Assange provided this statement to The Daily Beast: "We can confirm an approach by Cambridge Analytica and can confirm that it was rejected by WikiLeaks," Assange said.
Nobody has published the 33,000 emails that were deleted from the personal email server Hillary Clinton used while she was Secretary of State.

“It’s not at all clear that anybody hacked Clinton’s emails or has them,” said one of the sources familiar with the investigation.

Those 33,000 messages were a central focus of Trump and his allies during the campaign. At least one Republican operative tried to recruit hackers to obtain those emails, according to The Wall Street Journal. And at a press conference on July 27, 2016, while the Democratic National Convention was underway, Trump –– then the Republican nominee –– said he hoped the Kremlin would recover those emails.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’ll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said.
And on the campaign trail, Trump praised Wikileaks and tweeted about their findings. Politifact calculated that he mentioned the site about 137 times during the campaign.
“If the claims are true, this would be the closest known connection between Trump’s campaign and Wikileaks.”
“I love Wikileaks!” he proclaimed at a rally on Oct. 10, shortly after the site began publishing emails hacked from Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
By April, Trump’s CIA director was calling Wikileaks a tool of Kremlin spies and the equivalent of a “hostile intelligence service.”

Roger Stone, a longtime advisor to Trump, was in touch with Assange through an intermediary. The House Intelligence Committee is pushing Stone to share the identity of that intermediary with them. So far, he has not complied.
Robert and Rebekah Mercer, a billionaire father-daughter duo that spent big to boost Trump’s presidential candidacy, are major investors in Cambridge Analytica. Robert Mercer co-manages a hedge fund that drew scrutiny from Congressional investigators in 2014 for using questionable banking tactics to allegedly dodge paying upwards of $7 billion in taxes. Steve Bannon, formerly a senior White House aide, was on the company’s board before he joined the White House. He has worked with the Mercers on multiple conservative projects, and Bloomberg reported he previously had holdings in Cambridge Analytica worth between $1 million and $5 million.
The Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica millions for its work. A former Trump campaign staffer previously told The Daily Beast that the firm did very little actual work for the campaign.
A Republican digital strategist who worked with Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 campaign told The Daily Beast that Nix should not be viewed as a reliable narrator.
“Alexander Nix is not credible at all,” the strategist said. “He is a consummate salesman, and there are numerous instances already out in the public record where he made claims that were not just factually wrong––they were total fabrications.”
The source added that this doesn’t mean Nix didn’t reach out to Assange.
“I wouldn’t put it past him, if you consider every other thing that he’s done, every other way that he’s conducted business,” the strategist added. “I absolutely can see him reaching out and making an inquiry, hoping to find another way that Cambridge could become the heroes.”
UPDATE 11AM : This piece has been updated to include Assange's comments. ... an-assange
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Re: Robert Mercer 7 Billion Reasons to Steal an Election

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:48 am

oh no....somebody sees the writing on the wall :P

what's the problem trump not gonna help you out with that tax bill?

could there be a problem with advertising? :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

step down....or pushed off the cliff?

all that hard work getting your guy elected just hasn't worked out for you ...SINCE HE IS GOING TO JAIL!

Mercer sells for "personal reasons:" For being in the crosshairs of the Mueller investigation?

Mercer owes billions in back taxes--probably got word Team Mueller has Mercer taxes and Trump Family taxes--bye bye!!

Mercer cutting ties with Breitrump means Mueller’s got receipts on him, right?

Looks like MERCER’s time in the barrel may come soon‼️

If Mercer $ leave Trumpbart, they'll have to rely on a loan from SVB or Alfabank. :rofl:


RenTech’s Robert Mercer to Exit as Co-CEO, Sell Breitbart Stake
By Janet Lorin and Katherine Burton
November 2, 2017, 9:52 AM CDT Updated on November 2, 2017, 10:11 AM CDT

Rentech's Robert Mercer to Resign as Co-CEO

Renaissance Technologies’ Co-Founder Robert Mercer will resign as CO-CEO. Bloomberg’s Zach Mider reports.

Renaissance Technologies’ Robert Mercer plans to step down as co-chief executive officer effective Jan. 1, according to a letter he sent to investors in the firm’s funds.

Peter Brown, 62, will continue as CEO, the letter said. Mercer, 71, will also leave the board but remain at the company as a member of the technical staff focusing on research work. Mercer and Brown took the co-CEO posts in 2010 after founder James Simons retired.

Read Robert Mercer’s letter to his staff at Renaissance

In recent months, Mercer’s personal political projects dragged him and his firm into the national spotlight. Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, are prominent Republican donors and patrons of Stephen Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News and a driving force behind the populist, nationalist wing of the Republican party that carried Donald Trump to the White House.

In a Nov. 2 letter to colleagues at the hedge fund, Mercer said "for personal reasons" he has decided to sell his stake in Breitbart News to his daughters.

Mercer’s politics have put him at odds with those of other top figures at Renaissance. Simons, who remains chairman of the Renaissance board, was one of Hillary Clinton’s top financial backers during last year’s election.

Brown and Mercer were both hired by Renaissance in 1993 from the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, where they were language technology experts. The firm has been a pioneer in the growing industry of computer-driven investing. ... -fund-firm

seeing the writing on the there any doubt trump is not long for the White House :D

Bob Mercer peers into the math
With algorithmic rigor
Kills off his bad investments
With quite surprising vigor.

- Rick Wilson‏

incredible statement from Bob Mercer -- on Bannon, Milo, Breitbart:
Mazars and Deutsche Bank could have ended this nightmare before it started.
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