Paradise Papers, Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump,

Trouble In Paradise Papers: Robert Mercer

By David Malcolm

One interesting fact that emerged from the Paradise Papers involves the story of how some of the ‘modern’ Republicans are involved in tax-free schemes, including many in Trump’s cabinet. However, in a small tribute to the anniversary of Donald Trump’s surprise win, it’s worth taking a look, not at the man himself, but those who helped propel him to the White House. People like Robert Mercer.

If you haven’t heard of Robert Mercer, then you might be more familiar with Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Breitbart News. All three share similar connections, the big one being standard bearers of the so-called ‘alt-right’ movement. The movement sprang into view as Trump made his power play for the top job in America. They also have a connection to Robert Mercer whose tax-free donations funded their rise into prominence.

Robert Mercer is pretty easy to find if you follow US politics long enough and yet he’s also a shadowy enigma. Like many men with money to burn, he has lots of fingers in lots of pies. He’s a billionaire hedge-fund manager and rightwing computer scientist. His funds run into climate change denial and disrupting mainstream media, the latter through Media Research Centre which is committed to neutralizing ‘leftwing bias’ in the media.

Now Paradise Papers reveal that he built up a war chest worth around $60 million to fund conservatives causes such as Breitbart News, Kellyanne Conway, and Bannon’s book Clinton Cash in 2015.  In said book, Bannon made the claim that Hilary Clinton trading favors for donations to her charitable foundation centered on the sale of a uranium company to Russia. That claim is now the subject of a House inquiry and is cause for much talk in conservative circles. it is also a murky detail for Mueller and his investigation into Russian collusion to examine.

Most, if not all, of that money, is tax-free because Mercer is the director of eight different companies in Bermuda.  Some of them were used to legally avoid a little-known US tax of up to 39% on tens of millions of dollars in investment profits amassed by the Mercer family’s foundation. Don’t worry though! I’m sure Trump’s tax bill will help solve that little issue.
Mercer’s family foundation is where most of the money came from, money used specifically to fuel a resurgence of right-wing ideology and stop Hilary Clinton. It has no website, staff or offices and is registered to a mailbox at a UPS store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

While Mercer’s foundation is barred from intervening in election campaigns, that doesn’t stop it funding think-tanks and research groups who bolster the work of Republican groups. Although Mercer has slowly backed away from Breitbart and Bannon as a whole, the connections run deep. If you’ve heard of Citizens United, the Young America’s Foundation or GAI, they are mostly non-profit organizations that Bannon features in. Guess where those places got donations from?

Donald Trump might be the frontman but he is literally just a front. Any historian will tell you that, when it comes to power, the most important players are those who lurk behind the throne. Mercer is certainly a character who springs to mind, manipulating political opinion, funding right-wing conspiracy theories and making a nice tax saving in the meantime. What more could a Clinton-hater want?
Still, it’s a shame that his hedge fund is in the middle of a six billion dollar dispute with the IRS that has been rumbling for months. Life can be tough for billionaires these days!

Some might defend offshore tax havens as legitimate enterprises, but where do you draw the line? Is it right that Mercer can skip paying the taxman and fund people like Steve Bannon at the same time? His actions have set off a chain of events that we are all still reeling from. It might be legal but is it moral?

Robert Mercer is an excellent example of how the right amount of money can make people believe whatever you want them to. In his effort to change politics in America, Mercer may have also touched off a civil war in the GOP and helped prop up the most dangerous and unreliable president in the history of the USA.

The Paradise Papers raise so many unsettling questions. It seems hard to believe that, even now, with Apple, Nike and large numbers of celebrities in the spotlight, there is still more to discover. And yet, more is yet to follow…

I'm a historian based in the UK who likes jumping from one thought to next. I love to learn new things and explore other ideas.

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