GOP mega-donors Mercers distance themselves from Trump for the 2024 marketing campaign

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

According to people familiar with the matter, GOP mega-donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer currently have no plans to support former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign for the White House.

The Mercers, a father and daughter who were one of Trump’s key benefactors during his first presidential bid in 2016, are distancing themselves from the ex-president’s third bid for the White House and cutting all of their campaign funding, these people said. The people who spoke to CNBC did so on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The two Republican financiers join a list of party donors who have no plans to support Trump’s recent presidential bid, which he released 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 who have opted not to help Trump’s recent campaign — at least during the Republican one primaries. Some of the country’s wealthiest GOP donors don’t believe Trump can win again and have called for a new face to represent their party in the presidential race.

Public polls have shown a similar appetite for a new candidate among Republican voters. In a YouGov poll conducted after the Nov. 8 midterm election, 41% of respondents who said they were Republican preferred Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the GOP nominee for president in 2024, compared to 39% who voted for Trump. A Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 47% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would support Trump. The same poll found that 33% would support DeSantis.

A growing contingent of financiers are also convinced that Trump bears the blame for key Republican losses in the 2022 midterm elections up and down. Disappointments include the failure to win a Senate majority after Trump-backed candidates lost a handful of swing-state races that determined control of the chamber. The Republicans eventually took control of the House of Representatives, but by a narrow margin.

Mercers cut its election spending after 2016

Federal Election Commission records show that both Robert and Rebekah Mercer largely scaled back their support after spending millions of dollars to get Trump elected against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Robert Mercer wrote a check for $355,200 to a joint fundraising committee that helped both the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee during Trump’s failed 2020 presidential bid, records show. He gave the former president’s campaign two checks for $2,800 during the cycle — the maximum allowable — as one came during the primary and the other in the general election.

According to the filing, Rebekah Mercer gave nothing to any pro-Trump group or Trump campaign unit during his last presidential bid.

Representatives for Robert and Rebekah Mercer did not respond to requests for comment.

Robert Mercer, who was once 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 to a super PAC that first supported Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and then Trump during the 2016 presidential election, “does not get involved politically,” according to a GOP adviser who is familiar with the wealthy businessman. Mercer began distancing himself from Trump and the GOP during the 2018 midterm election after two years earlier he and his family faced public criticism for supporting the then-presidential nominee.

Before restricting his political giving, Mercer also rose to fame for investing millions of dollars in the now-defunct data company Cambridge Analytica. Rebekah Mercer served on the board of the data collection firm, which also included ex-Breitbart News chief and former top Trump adviser Steve Bannon as an executive. The Mercers were big investors in Breitbart. Bannon was recently sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress.

Cambridge Analytica collected the personal data of 50 million Facebook users. The 2016 Trump campaign then reportedly used this data to run some digital advertising. According to the bipartisan OpenSecrets, the Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica over $5.9 million for his services during the 2016 election cycle.

The pro-Trump super PAC, partially funded by Robert Mercer, also paid just over $5.6 million to Cambridge Analytica this cycle, OpenSecrets says. The super PAC spent nearly $100,000 supporting Trump and another $4.3 million against Clinton, his opponent.

Mercers give conservative concerns to GOP candidates

Members of the Mercer family have poured money into conservative causes in recent years, even backing some Republican candidates, before deciding to back down from supporting Trump.

The family’s foundation donated $20 million in 2020 to the DonorsTrust, which operates as a dark money fund that allows donors to keep the ultimate destination of their donations private. In 2021, DonorsTrust directed $187 million to a variety of nonprofit groups, including millions of dollars to conservative organizations.

The Mercer Family Foundation appeared to be trimming its dues last year, making just over $6 million in grants, most of which went to DonorsTrust, according to its latest 990 form. The remainder of the foundation’s donations were distributed 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, the filing said. The foundation entered 2022 with a net worth of over $96 million in book value. Robert and Rebekah Mercer are listed as two directors of their family trust on their 2021 tax returns.

The Mercers also pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars during the midterm elections this year.

One of Mercer’s largest donations during the 2022 election cycle was to a Super PAC with a mailing address in Manchester, NH called the General John Stark PAC, named after a general from the state’s Revolutionary War. The veteran hedge fund manager donated $500,000 to the Super PAC in June, according to an FEC filing.

It’s the only donation the Super PAC has received since its inception earlier this year. The PAC is still active but made no disbursements during the 2022 election, according to FEC records. New Hampshire is the first in a series of states to hold a presidential primary.

Super PAC treasurer John Plishka declined to answer CNBC’s questions about what the PAC does. Plishka said he can’t answer questions about the group because he signed a non-disclosure agreement. He didn’t want to say who gave him the legal contract.

Robert Mercer also donated $100,000 to a Super PAC that supported Republican JD Vance’s successful run for the Ohio Senate seat.

Meanwhile, Rebekah Mercer — who seems largely done helping Trump — is still putting her money into conservative politics. She was an original investor in the social media platform Parler, which started out as a conservative alternative to Twitter and reportedly hosted a wave of election conspiracies in 2020.

According to an invitation, she co-hosted a fundraiser in New York last year for Vance and former Arizona Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters. 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 in Austin, Texas this weekend as financiers prepare for 2024.

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