Steve Bannon used Robert Mercer’s offshore millions to accuse Clinton of corruption

The financing was part of a $60 million war chest built for the conservative giant's right-wing causes.

The Paradise Papers have revealed that Robert Mercer stashed millions in offshore tax havens.
(Photo by Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Paradise Papers have revealed that Robert Mercer stashed millions in offshore tax havens. (Photo by Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Conservative efforts to paint Hillary Clinton as corrupt in the run-up to the 2016 election were financed by an offshore investment vehicle built by the billionaire Mercer family — which was used to avoid tens of millions worth of taxes.

New revelations from the Paradise Papers show Robert Mercer as the director of eight subsidiaries of his company, Renaissance Technologies, all of which were registered in Bermuda. According to the Guardian, which first reported the story, some of the companies appear to have been used to avoid a 39 percent U.S. tax on profits from the lucrative Mercer Family Foundation. The documents obtained also show a scanned copy of Mercer’s passport, proving he registered as a client.

That tax-free cash was then used to finance conservative groups and a retirement fund for employees of Mercer’s hedge fund. One of the key groups that was funded using the offshore cash was the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), which was founded in 2012 by Steve Bannon and Peter Schweizer, the author of the book Clinton Cash. The GAI says its mission is to “investigate and expose crony capitalism” — making the fact that over half of the GAI’s funding from 2013 to 2015 was provided by the tax-dodging Mercer foundation even more ironic.

Clinton Cash alleges that mining executives contributed to the Clinton Foundation, which in turn helped them by approving the lucrative sale of a uranium company to a Russian state energy agency. The book, which suggests Clinton transferred the uranium in return for $145 million worth of donations to Clinton’s charity, has been widely dismissed, and the publisher had to afterwords correct more than half-a-dozen factually inaccurate passages. Nonetheless, the book has thrilled conservatives, and was also made into a movie; the uranium deal at the center of the controversy, Uranium One, is now the target of a Republican-led congressional investigation.

The camera-shy Mercer is the outgoing president and co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies. In his 25 years at the company, Mercer made Renaissance the envy of investors with its top-secret trading formulas, and the company currently manages more than $50 billion in assets. Mercer also helped fund the Mercer Family Foundation, which is led by his daughter Rebekah, and describes itself as a nonprofit, despite having no staff, website, or offices.

Over the last year, Mercer shot to prominence amid continued revelations about his role in financing conservative groups. Some of them, like the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation, are more traditional right-wing organizations, but Mercer was also a major investor in Breitbart News, which Bannon also helped found and which the former White House chief strategist once described as a platform for the so-called “alt-right”, a white supremacist movement that appeals to neo-Nazis and other fringe groups.

As ThinkProgress previously reported, Mercer and his daughter Rebekah were heavily involved with Breitbart’s — in particular former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ — attempts to smuggle white nationalist ideals into mainstream American politics under Bannon’s guidance. The Mercers’ private security company, for instance, provided Yiannopoulos with protective services during his antagonizing college speaking tour. The tour was also organized by Mercer’s production company, Glittering Steel.

In February, when Yiannopoulos was forced to step down from his role at Breitbart after condoning pedophilia, Mercer funded Milo’s new company, MILO Inc.

Mercer finally resigned his role as CEO of Renaissance Technologies on November 2, under pressure from ThinkProgress’ reporting and other media investigation. He said he planned to sell his stake in Breitbart to his daughter.