Billionaire father and daughter linked to Trump shake-up

Donald Trump’s dramatic staff shake-up on Wednesday revealed the growing influence wielded on his campaign by a Republican megadonor duo. 

The fingerprints of Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund billionaire, and his middle daughter, Rebekah, can be seen all over the new Trump staffing appointments and other decisions being made by the GOP presidential nominee. 

{mosads}The Mercers, who previously put $13.5 million into a super-PAC supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential bid, have recently converted the group into the Defeat Crooked Hillary PAC, targeting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Robert Mercer has reportedly made a “substantial” additional investment of at least $1 million in the new super-PAC, which has already spent $500,000 on digital ads attacking Clinton in eight battleground states. Additionally, he and particularly Rebekah have become influential figures in Trump World in the past few months. 

Rebekah Mercer “lives in a beautiful apartment in one of Trump’s buildings on the Upper West Side [of New York City] overlooking the Hudson River,” a source who knows her told The Hill. 

A Heritage Foundation trustee and director of the Mercer Family Foundation, Rebekah takes the lead on the details of the Mercers’ political operation, while her father provides the funds.

She’s known as a hands-on operator who won’t open up the Mercer checkbook without strict conditions about which vendors are used and which consultants are hired. 

Now loyal to Trump, the Mercers were furious when Cruz didn’t endorse the nominee at the Republican National Convention last month. And because they are among the few megadonors to get fully behind Trump, they now increasingly have his ear.

Stephen Bannon, the Trump campaign’s newly appointed CEO, is “tied at the hip” with Rebekah Mercer, said a source who has worked with the Mercers in their political activities. 

The Mercers are united with Bannon in their deep opposition to Clinton. They worked with Bannon and provided funds for the “Clinton Cash” movie, based on the book by Peter Schweizer.  

And Trump’s other major appointment Wednesday — his promotion of veteran pollster Kellyanne Conway from senior adviser to campaign manager — also bears the hallmarks of the GOP megadonor family’s influence, according to sources who have worked with the Mercers. 

“The Mercers basically own this campaign,” said a source who has worked with Rebekah Mercer in her political activities. “They have installed their people. … And now they’ve got their data firm in there.” 

That assertion is possibly overselling the Mercer’s influence because the GOP nominee is his own man and has strong personal relationships with both Bannon and Conway, a source close to Trump said.

But even this source, who said Trump would not be swayed by any donor, conceded that the Mercers have built significant influence over the campaign in a relatively short time. 

Trump’s recent decision to employ the data firm Cambridge Analytica, a company in which Robert Mercer is an investor, is another clear sign of Rebekah Mercer’s influence, two sources who have worked with Cambridge said.

“As a donor, this is reflective of how she operates,” one of these sources said of Rebekah Mercer, who has both a dual bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Stanford University.

“She’s very nice and very unassuming … but she’s also no bullshit. Her style is, ‘If you want my money, you have to do things the way I want.'”

Neither Cambridge Analytica, the Trump campaign, nor representatives for the Mercers would comment for this report.

Conway, who also did not respond to a request for comment, led the Cruz-aligned Keep the Promise super-PAC funded by the Mercers and is a trusted political adviser to the family. 

Rebekah Mercer has been known to recommend that people she works with travel to Los Angeles to meet with Bannon.  

“And it’s not a recommendation; it’s happening. It’s understood that it’s happening. She’ll set up the dinner with Bannon,” said a source who has worked with Mercer. 

Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Navy officer, predated Trump in pushing the populist nationalism that now dominates the GOP nominee’s campaign. 

To lead Trump’s campaign, he’s taking temporary leave from running Breitbart News, a pro-Trump news website also funded by the Mercers. 

Rebekah Mercer has been known to indicate to people in the public policy world that she can influence Breitbart coverage where needed. 

During the Republican convention, Bannon and Breitbart’s Washington political editor, Matt Boyle, were listed as invited guests of Mercer in a private donor suite, according to a document published by Bloomberg Politics. The Hill could not confirm their attendance in the suite. 

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Mercer spoke to Trump on Saturday evening at a Hamptons fundraiser hosted at the home of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson. She reportedly spoke highly of Bannon, who has long been a confidant of Trump’s. 

Little has been written about the Mercers because they avoid the public spotlight, but conservative sources who know the family, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described them as “kind, civic-minded people and consensus-builders.” 

“Bekah and her two sisters have a side cookie business,” one of these sources said when asked to give a flavor of Bekah’s personal style. 

“She will serve these delicious gourmet cookies at her apartment, at conservative fundraisers. … She sends people on their way with hand-wrapped cookies.” 

But that source, who has worked with Mercer in some of her other political ventures, said it was a surprise to some people that the Mercers had swung so forcefully behind Trump, given her ideological bent. 

“She identifies as a libertarian. At least she always did,” the source said, adding that Mercer was a big supporter of libertarian think tanks like the Goldwater Institute and Cato.

“With Bekah you always had to prove your libertarian racing stripes,” the source added. “This seems really strange.” 

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Ted Cruz

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