The Mercer family has quietly become one of the most powerful and influential players in politics; they are a key reason that Donald Trump won the White House and had sway over who he selected for his cabinet. They will also be involved in outside organizations to promote the Trump agenda.
Who is the Mercer family exactly? What is their history in politics and why did they choose to support Trump? Here are six things you need to know:
1. Robert Mercer is the co-chief executive officer of the Renaissance Technologies hedge fund. Mercer initially worked for IBM to utilize computers as translators. He left IBM for Renaissance in 1993 when he finally acquiesced to Nick Patterson's repeated requests to join the hedge fund to help pay for college tuition for his three daughters. Renaissance elevated Mercer from being middle-class to enormously wealthy; he reportedly earns a yearly income of $135 million. He has been described as reclusive, which may be one of the reasons he eschews talking to the press.
2. Mercer has been described as a Ayn Rand-esque libertarian with a searing hatred for the Clintons. David Magerman, a self-described "centrist" Democrat who has worked at Renaissance for 20 years, described Mercer's views in The Wall Street Journal as wanting to reduce the federal government "to the size of a pinhead." Mercer also has a reported disdain for the Clintons, to the point where he subscribes to conspiracy theories about them murdering people.
3. The other Mercer power player is Mercer's middle daughter, Rebekah. Rebekah Mercer shares her father's affinity for capitalism and a limited federal government as well as his disdain for the media. She became well-known in conservative circles after she gave "an unsparing critique of the Republican's technology and canvassing operations" to a crowd of GOP donors in the aftermath of Mitt Romney's loss in 2012, according to The Washington Post. She has since served on the boards of various conservative organizations, including The Heritage Foundation. Rebekah is reportedly sharp on political strategy but less well-versed on the nuance of policy.
4. Steve Bannon has been described as the "Svengali" of the Mercer family. The Mercer family became connected to Bannon through Andrew Breitbart at a Club for Growth event. Bannon has been close with the Mercer family ever since and has provided them with political strategy. He convinced them to invest $10 million into the Breitbart website. The Mercer family has also been involved with other Bannon initiatives, such as the Government Accountability Institute that produced Peter Schweizer's Clinton Cash book.
Bannon and the Mercers might seem like an odd couple given Bannon's unabashed nationalism and the Mercer's free-market oriented worldview, but they appear to be united by their disdain for the elites, the Clintons and the establishment.
5. The Mercer family initially supported Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). They gave $11 million to pro-Cruz Keep the Promise 1 super PAC; the Cruz campaign also used the Cambridge Analytica data firm funded by the Mercers. They were still Cruz supporters even as Breitbart smeared Cruz while the primary grew contentious between the conservative senator and Trump, but once Cruz dropped out in May, the Mercer family threw their support behind Trump.
6. The Mercer family transformed Trump's campaign; their influence can be seen in Trump's cabinet. Rebekah Mercer was reportedly the key figure behind convincing Trump to shake up his campaign in the summer by getting rid of Paul Manafort as his campaign manager and bringing aboard Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and David Bossie, the chairman of Citizens United, to the campaign, all of whom have ties to the Mercers. Rebekah Mercer was also on Trump's transition team and lobbied successfully for Jeff Sessions as attorney general and Mike Flynn as national security adviser. She also unsuccessfully lobbied for John Bolton to be the secretary of state.
The Mercers have emerged as among the most influential political donors in the country; it will be interesting to see how much of their worldview is adopted by the Trump administration going forward.