TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder VIII
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Author: Munir Podumljak

In addition to the information provided in the previous article regarding Russian nationals engaged with members of the Trump campaign, the Trump campaign paid UK company Cambridge Analytica a total of $5.9 million for accessing personal data (mostly Facebook data on the individual behavior of users) for the purpose of conducting a targeted election campaign, according to Federal Election Commission data processed by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.[1]  Stephen (Steve) Bannon, formerly Trump’s White House strategist and one of the founders of CA, earlier this year spent two days testifying before Mueller’s team about his role, and the role of Cambridge Analytica in assisting Russians in achieving the objectives of the “Translator Project.”[2]  As observed earlier, Jared Kushner himself also confirmed that Cambridge Analytica was the key to success of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.[3]

The timeline of Cambridge Analytica’s involvement suggests that this company played a key role in ‘fixing’ the US elections. In June 2016, between 25% and 31% of Americans favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, while 66% of voters saw Trump as an unfavorable candidate according to an overview of public polls provided by Politico.[4] Many analysts at the time believed that such ratings so late in the campaign were strong predictors of the final election result with little chance of a turnaround.[5]

In June 2016, Russian intelligence operative and lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya engaged in a meeting with key Trump campaign personnel in Trump tower[6] in which she offered more “dirt on Hillary Clinton” following on from the “Fancy Bears” hack of the DNC e-mails. In parallel, the Russian WikiLeaks operation was preparing for the 22 July launch of Clinton leaks.[7] This was the moment when Robert and Rebekah Mercer decided to take Donald Trump’s campaign under their wing. These events changed the political luck of Donald Trump and of the citizens of the United States of America.

Democracies under the shadow of Robert Mercer

Robert Mercer was key to the success of this multi-layered and multi-party approach that has undermined democracy and changed the balance of power. Mercer’s complex socioeconomic operation can be traced back to 2006, when he began investing his profits in partisan causes and mostly supporting conservative initiatives through the Mercer Family Foundation, according to the data in a report from Centre for Responsive Politics.[8] His interest in elections in particular began in 2008 with a first investment in Media Research Center, a conservative media non-profit with a mission to “expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left.”[9] His repeated investments totaled around USD 7.5 million in the period 2008-12, according to Conservative Transparency[10], and an additional approx. 6 million in the period 2012-14, according to

USA Today.[11] In 2011, the Mercer family invested USD10 million in Breitbart News, a rightwing media group founded by Andrew Breitbart, often accused of misleading and conspiracy stories, where Steve Bannon (founder of Cambridge Analytica) was a chief executive prior to joining the Trump campaign.[12] The Mercer family (Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah) also rewarded the far right Citizens United group with USD 3.6 million donations in 2012-14 for the group’s effort in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which opened the door to unlimited corporate and union donations in elections.[13]

The Citizens United US Supreme Court decision was crucial for the Mercers’ plans and for their engagement in UK and US political processes, since it enabled them to become one of the most influential single donors in US politics today.[14][15][16] While most of the publicly available articles and information attempt to understand the Mercers’ politics, describing Mercer as a “white supremacist[17]” or conspiracy theory supporter “not believing in global warming[18],  we suggest that Robert Mercer’s behavior can be understood simply as an investment strategy.

Robert Mercer is a brilliant computer scientist who helped transform the financial industry through the innovative use of trading algorithms.[19] He received a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Mathematics from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque in 1968 and embarked on graduate study, but soon took a side job writing programs at the Kirtland Air Force Base’s weapons lab.[20] In 1972, after his PhD, he took a job at IBM where he worked for 20 years on speech recognition (speech to text translation and translation between languages) in the company’s Watson Research Center in New York suburb Yorktown Heights, according to CNBC[21].

In 1993, Mercer and his IBM colleague Peter Brown were recruited by Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund established by another brilliant mathematician and computer scientist James Simons who had started his career working for the US government Department of Defense as a code breaker.[22] While Renaissance Technologies was a highly successful hedge fund from the very beginning, it was Mercer’s work and algorithms that brought large profits through automated trading, leading to Robert Mercer becoming a CEO of the company. Renaissance is a hedge fund, where most of the employees are scientists from different fields (usually not from the financial world) who tap decades of diverse data in Renaissance’s vast data banks to assess statistical probabilities for trends in securities prices in any given market.[23] The work of Renaissance is, in short, focused on predicting market instabilities that could occur, before anyone else can anticipate them, partly by using big data. However, market instabilities are hard to predict and usually beyond the control of financial market players. Or are they?

Read more in the next article

 

This article was created with the support of the Fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity of Electronic Media within the project “Media Reality” – Developing and Encouraging the Media Literacy Programme

 

 

Connected articles: TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder VIITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder VITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder VTRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IVTRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IIITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder I

 

[1] Overby, P. (2018) Cambridge Analytica’s Role In Trump’s 2016 Campaign Raises Potential Legal Flags. NPR, [online]. Available at: https://www.npr.org/2018/03/21/595535935/cambridge-analyticas-role-in-trump-s-2016-campaign-raises-potential-legal-flags [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[2] House, B., Taley, M. (2018) Bannon Met With Mueller’s Team, Source Says. Bloomberg Businessweek, [online]. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-15/schiff-wants-bannon-held-in-contempt-if-he-skips-panel-interview [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[3] Murray, S., Reston, M., Bash, D., Perez, E. (2018) Inside the Trump campaign’s ties with Cambridge Analytica. CNN, [online]. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/03/21/politics/trump-campaign-cambridge-analytica/index.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[4] Shepard, S. (2016) Trump’s poll ratings in a historic hole. Politico, [online]. Available at: https://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/donald-trump-unfavorable-polls-224454 [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[5] Shepard, S. (2016) Trump’s poll ratings in a historic hole. Politico, [online]. Available at: https://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/donald-trump-unfavorable-polls-224454 [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[6] CNN (2017) Trump Tower Russia meeting: At least eight people in the room. [online]. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/14/politics/donald-trump-jr-meeting/index.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[7] WikiLeaks, DNC email database. [online]. Available at: https://wikileaks.org/dnc-emails/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[8] Browers, J. (2016) A hedge fund house divided: Renaissance Technologies. OpenSecrets.org, [online]. Available at: https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2016/06/a-hedge-fund-house-divided-renaissance-technologies/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[9] Media Research Center, About the MRC. [online]. Available at: https://www.mrc.org/about [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[10] Mercer Family Foundation, Financial Record. [online]. Available at: http://conservativetransparency.org/donor/mercer-family-foundation/?og_tot=67&order_by=year+DESC [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[11] Schouten, F. (2017) Who are mega-donors Bob and Rebekah Mercer, and why are they influential? USA Today, [online]. Available at: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/07/who-are-trump-donors-bob-and-rebekah-mercer/98812284/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[12] Tracy, A. (2016) The brewing billionaire feud at the heart of the G.O.P. Vanity Fair, [online]. Available at: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/09/robert-rebekah-mercer-charles-david-koch-republican-party [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[13] Schouten, F. (2017) Who are mega-donors Bob and Rebekah Mercer, and why are they influential? USA Today, [online]. Available at: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/07/who-are-trump-donors-bob-and-rebekah-mercer/98812284/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[14] Zarroli, J. (2017) Robert Mercer Is A Force To Be Reckoned With In Finance And Conservative Politics. NPR, [online]. Available at: https://www.npr.org/2017/05/26/530181660/robert-mercer-is-a-force-to-be-reckoned-with-in-finance-and-conservative-politic [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[15] Delevingne, L. (2014) Have Mercer! The money man who helped the GOP win. CNBC, [online]. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2014/11/07/robert-mercer-the-most-important-political-money-man-youve-never-heard-of.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[16] Delevingne, L. (2014) Have Mercer! The money man who helped the GOP win. CNBC, [online]. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2014/11/07/robert-mercer-the-most-important-political-money-man-youve-never-heard-of.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[17] Crilly, R. (2017) Trump donor Robert Mercer denies he is a white supremacist as he sells stake in Breitbart News. The Telegraph, [online]. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/02/trump-donor-robert-mercer-denies-white-supremacist-sells-stake/ [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[18] Zarroli, J. (2017) Robert Mercer Is A Force To Be Reckoned With In Finance And Conservative Politics. NPR, [online]. Available at: https://www.npr.org/2017/05/26/530181660/robert-mercer-is-a-force-to-be-reckoned-with-in-finance-and-conservative-politic [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[19] Mayer, J. (2017) The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency. The New Yorker, [online]. Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[20] Delevingne, L. (2014) Have Mercer! The money man who helped the GOP win. CNBC, [online]. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2014/11/07/robert-mercer-the-most-important-political-money-man-youve-never-heard-of.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[21] Delevingne, L. (2014) Have Mercer! The money man who helped the GOP win. CNBC, [online]. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2014/11/07/robert-mercer-the-most-important-political-money-man-youve-never-heard-of.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[22] Delevingne, L. (2014) Have Mercer! The money man who helped the GOP win. CNBC, [online]. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2014/11/07/robert-mercer-the-most-important-political-money-man-youve-never-heard-of.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[23] Hamilton, D. (2007) Renaissance hedge fund: Only scientists need apply. Reuters, [online]. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/simons-hedge/renaissance-hedge-fund-only-scientists-need-apply-idUSN2135575220070522 [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

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