Robert Mercer and Rebekah Mercer attend the 2017 TIME 100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 25, 2017 in New York City.
Patrick McMullan | Getty Images
GOP megadonors Robert and Rebekah Mercer have no current plans to help former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign for the White House, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Mercers, a father and daughter who were one of Trump’s major benefactors during his first run for president in 2016, are distancing themselves from the ex-president’s third White House bid and cutting back their overall campaign fundraising, these people said. The people who spoke to CNBC did so on the condition of anonymity to talk about private conversations.
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The two Republican financiers join a list of party donors who are not planning to back Trump’s latest bid for president, which he launched on Tuesday night.
Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, wealthy New York businessman Andy Sabin and billionaire Ronald Lauder are among the wealthy GOP donors opting against helping Trump’s latest campaign — at least during the Republican primary. Some of the country’s wealthiest GOP donors do not believe Trump can win again, and have argued for a new face to represent their party in the race for president.
Public polls have showed a similar appetite among Republican voters for a new candidate. In a YouGov poll taken after the Nov. 8 midterm elections, 41% of those surveyed who said they were Republican preferred Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the GOP nominee for president in 2024, compared with 39% who chose Trump. A Politico/Morning Consult poll showed 47% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would support Trump. The same poll found 33% would support DeSantis.
A growing contingent of financiers is also convinced Trump bears the blame for key Republican losses up and down the ballot during the 2022 midterm elections. The disappointments include the failure to win a majority in the Senate after Trump-backed candidates lost a handful of swing-state races that determined control of the chamber. Republicans ended up taking control of the House, but only by a slim margin.
Mercers cut their election spending after 2016
Federal Election Commission records indicate that after they spent millions of dollars to help get Trump elected over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, both Robert and Rebekah Mercer have largely cut back their support.
Robert Mercer wrote a $355,200 check during Trump’s failed 2020 presidential bid to a joint fundraising committee that helped both the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, records show. He gave two checks for $2,800 — the maximum allowed — to the former president’s campaign during the cycle, as one came during the primary and the other in the general election.
Rebekah Mercer gave nothing to any pro-Trump group or Trump campaign entity during his last run for president, according to the filings.
Representatives for both Robert and Rebekah Mercer did not return requests for comment.
Robert Mercer, who once was a co-CEO of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, had a net worth of $125 million as of 2017, according to Forbes.
Mercer, who donated over $15 million toward a super PAC that first supported Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and then Trump during the 2016 presidential election, “is not participating politically,” according to a GOP advisor familiar with the wealthy businessman. Mercer started distancing himself from Trump and the GOP during the 2018 midterm elections after he and his family came under public criticism for backing the then-candidate for president two years earlier.
Before cutting back on his political giving, Mercer also gained notoriety for investing millions of dollars into the now-defunct data company Cambridge Analytica. Rebekah Mercer was on the board of the data-gathering firm, which also counted former Breitbart News boss and previous top Trump advisor Steve Bannon as an executive. The Mercers were major investors in Breitbart. Bannon, meanwhile, was recently sentenced to four months in jail for contempt of Congress.
Cambridge Analytica harvested the personal data of 50 million Facebook users. The 2016 Trump campaign then reportedly used that data to conduct some digital advertising. The Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica over $5.9 million for its services during the 2016 election cycle, according to the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.
The pro-Trump super PAC funded in part by Robert Mercer also paid Cambridge Analytica just over $5.6 million that cycle, OpenSecrets says. The super PAC spent just under $100,000 supporting Trump and another $4.3 million against Clinton, his opponent.
Mercers give to conservative causes, GOP candidates
Members of the Mercer family funneled money into conservative causes, and even backed some Republican candidates, in recent years before they decided to pull back from supporting Trump.
The family’s foundation gave $20 million in 2020 to the DonorsTrust, which acts as a dark money fund that allows donors to keep secret the ultimate destination of their contributions. In 2021, DonorsTrust funneled $187 million to a wide variety of nonprofit groups, including millions of dollars toward conservative organizations.
The Mercer Family Foundation appeared to cut back their contributions last year, giving just over $6 million in grants, with most of it going to DonorsTrust, according to its latest 990 form. The rest of the foundation’s donations were spread out to the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America, the Explorer’s Club and the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, according to the filing.
Robert Mercer donated over $6 million to the foundation last year, according to the filing. The foundation went into 2022 with their net assets having a book value of over $96 million. Robert and Rebekah Mercer are listed on the 2021 tax filing as two directors of their family foundation.
The Mercers also pushed hundreds of thousands of dollars during the midterm elections this year.
One of Mercer’s biggest donations during the 2022 election cycle went to a super PAC with a mailing address in Manchester, N.H., called General John Stark PAC, named after a Revolutionary War general from the state. The veteran hedge fund executive donated $500,000 to the super PAC in June, according to an FEC filing.
It’s the only donation the super PAC received since it launched earlier this year. The PAC is still active but made no disbursements during the 2022 elections, according to FEC records. New Hampshire is the first in a series of states to hold a primary election for president.
John Plishka, the super PAC’s treasurer, declined to answer any of CNBC’s questions about what the PAC does. Plishka said he could not answer any questions about the group because he signed a nondisclosure agreement. He would not say who gave him the legal contract.
Robert Mercer also donated $100,000 to a super PAC that backed Republican J.D. Vance’s successful run for Ohio’s Senate seat.
Meanwhile, Rebekah Mercer — who appears largely done with helping Trump — is still putting her money toward conservative politics. She was an original investor in the social media platform Parler, which started as a conservative alternative to Twitter and reportedly became host to a wave of 2020 election conspiracies.
She co-hosted a fundraiser in New York last year for Vance and former Republican Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, according to an invitation. She gave a combined $60,800 to two PACs supporting Vance, FEC records show.
Rebekah Mercer is also part of a conservative donor coalition known as the Rockbridge Network, The New York Times reported.
The group is scheduled to meet this weekend in Austin, Texas as financiers prepare for 2024.