Mercer Family Foundation

Mercer Family Foundation

Background

The Mercer Family Foundation is a 501(c)(3) foundation run by Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of hedge fund manager Robert Mercer. The Mercer family has funnelled millions of dollars to conservative causes including climate deniers like Arthur Robinson of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM). [1], [2]

According to a 2013 study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle's titled “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations,” the Mercer Family Foundation spent at least $3,824,000 between 2003 and 2010 directly funding groups opposing climate change action. That money went to organizatons including The Heartland InstituteManhattan InstituteMedia Research Center, and Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM)[3]

While Mercer and his daughter joined the Koch brothers's political donor network after the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC, Politico reports it was Rebekah Mercer who decided they should establish their own political foundation. After becoming frustrated with the ineffectiveness of the Koch's network, the Mercers shifted their focus to their own foundation. Eventually they stopped attending twice-a-year Koch donor summits and dialled back their support of the network. At the same time, the Mercer Family Foundation nearly doubled its giving between 2011 and 2014, donating $34.6 million to 30 nonprofits including The Government Accountability Institute, which produced “Clinton Cash,” a book criticizing Hillary Clinton, and Heritage Foundation where Rebekah sits as a board member.  [4]

The Washington Post notes that the Mercer Family Foundation is so difficult to find online, that it is often mistaken for the Web site of a West Coast Mercer Family Foundation that gives small grants to aspiring math and physics students. [5]

Offshore Investments

In November 2017, The “Paradise Papers,” a trove of millions of leaked documents reviewed by The Guardian, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and others, revealed how Robert Mercer used offshore investment accounts to shield investements made by the Mercer Family Foundation—which helped the Mercers build a $60m war chest for conservative causes—while legally avoiding US taxes. [12]

Mercer was director of eight Bermuda companies listed in the papers. The Guardian outlined how the Bermuda companies “appear to have been used to legally avoid a little-known US tax of up to 39% on tens of millions of dollars in investment profits amassed by the Mercer family’s foundation, which funded Bannon’s book [Clinton Cash] and a who’s who of conservative groups, along with a $475m retirement fund for the staff of Mercer’s hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies.” [12]

The Paradise Papers suggest that the Mercer Foundation, which has used its investments in Mercer's Renaissance Technologies to fund its operations, was able to avoid paying unrelated business income tax (UBIT) by routing investments through an offshore company. While Renaissance Technologies's main fund is based in the U.S. it also maintained “feeder funds” in Bermuda, registered to the office of Appleby, a legal and financial services firm. [12]

The UBIT is a tax designed to prevent nonprofits from competing unfairly with regular businesses, and only applies to investments financed by debt. However, nonprofits can legally route investments through an offshore company known as a “blocker.” The Mercer Family Foundation's public IRS filings confirm it has never paid UBIT[12]

The Bermuda-based Medallion Capital Investments was set up to accept investments from American charities or foundations “closely affiliated with an owner or employee” of Renaissance. 2004 and 2005 IRS forms confirmed that the Mercer Family Foundation had sent month through Medallion Capital Investments, suggesting that it was operating as a blocker for the foundation. [12]

Stance on Climate Change

 The Mercer Family Foundation spent nearly $4 million between 2003 and 2010 funding groups that devote much of their time to stalling climate change action including groups like The Heartland InstituteManhattan InstituteMedia Research Center, and Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM)[3]

Funding

According to a 2013 study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle's titled “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations,” The Mercer Family Foundation spent at least $3,824,000 between 2003 and 2010 directly funding groups opposing climate change action. That money went to organizatons including The Heartland Institute, Manhattan Institute, Media Research Center, And Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM)[3]

The following data is compiled from the Conservative Transparency Project as well as public 990 forms as recent as 2014. See the attached spreadsheet for additional details on the Mercer Family Foundation's donations (.xlsx). Note that not all individual funding values have been verified by DeSmog. [6]

* Denotes a recipient newly funded in 2015.

Recipient 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Grand Total
Media Research Center $500,000 $1,000,000 $1,194,000 $1,800,000 $3,000,000 $2,972,420 $3,000,000 $3,000,000 $16,466,420
The Stony Brook Foundation $2,186,215 $1,231,067 $1,263,938 $2,904,636 $2,099,970 $9,685,826
George W. Bush Foundation $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $100,000 $1,000,000 $5,000,000 $8,100,000
The Federalist Society $1,600,000 $2,050,000 $2,300,000 $5,950,000
Heartland Institute $1,000,000 $500,000 $370,000 $444,000 $912,000 $877,000 $885,000 $100,000 $5,088,000
Citizens United Foundation $2,000,000 $1,000,000 $550,000 $250,000 $3,800,000
Government Accountability Institute $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $1,735,000 $3,735,000
George W. Bush Presidential Center $2,000,000 $2,000,000
Museum of Natural History $1,250,000 $575,000 $1,825,000
Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine $60,000 $50,000 $50,000 $50,000 $100,000 $965,000 $200,000 $200,000 $1,675,000
American Museum of Natural History $250,000 $1,350,000 $1,600,000
Heritage Foundation $500,000 $500,000 $500,000 $1,500,000
Manhattan Institute for Policy Research $50,000 $100,000 $284,225 $400,000 $300,000 $300,000 $1,434,225
Reclaim New York $75,000 $1,250,000 $1,325,000
Goldwater Institute $100,000 $250,000 $300,000 $300,000 $300,000 $1,250,000
Young America's Foundation $50,000 $50,000 $1,100,000 $1,200,000
Home Depot Foundation $1,100,000 $1,100,000
Illinois Policy Institute $100,000 $250,000 $250,000 $250,000 $250,000 $1,100,000
Success Academy Charter Schools $550,000 $500,000 $1,050,000
Moving Picture Institute $100,000 $300,000 $500,000 $900,000
Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise $550,000 $250,000 $800,000
The Becket Fund $250,000 $250,000 $250,000 $750,000
Cherish Freedom Foundation $50,000 $305,000 $250,000 $605,000
Cato Institute $300,000 $300,000 $600,000
King's College $300,000 $300,000 $600,000
World Science Festival $100,000 $100,000 $100,000 $100,000 $100,000 $500,000
Berkely Earth $250,000 $250,000 $500,000
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Foundation $500,000 $500,000
Cain Foundation $500,000 $500,000
John Hancock Committee for the States $500,000 $500,000
Center for Union Facts* $500,000 $500,000
The Calvin Coolidge Foundation $25,000 $108,333 $273,000 $406,333
Foundation for Cultural Review $25,000 $125,000 $150,000 $100,000 $400,000
Susan B Anthony Education Fund* $300,000 $300,000
National Youth Science Fund $100,000 $100,000 $100,000 $300,000
Empire Center for Public Policy $100,000 $100,000 $100,000 $300,000
Philanthropy Roundtable $10,000 $10,000 $260,000 $280,000
Council for National Policy $50,000 $50,000 $50,000 $50,000 $50,000 $25,000 $275,000
Cold Spring Harbor Lab* $250,000 $250,000
American Principles Project* $250,000 $250,000
American Transparency* $250,000 $250,000
Families for Excellent Schools* $250,000 $250,000
Law Enforcement Agency Fund* $231,600 $231,600
Job Creators Alliance $100,000 $100,000 $200,000
Gatestone Institute $50,000 $100,000 $150,000
Reason Foundation $50,000 $50,000 $50,000 $150,000
Math for America $125,000 $125,000
ACU Foundation* $120,000 $120,000
Mount Sinai School of Medicine $115,000 $115,000
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium $100,000 $100,000
Patton Foundation $100,000 $100,000
State Policy Network $50,000 $50,000 $100,000
Special Operations Warrior Foundation $85,000 $2,905 $87,905
Women's Sports Foundation $45,000 $15,000 $25,000 $85,000
Classroom Inc. $40,000 $40,000 $80,000
LPD Commission International $75,000 $75,000
Historical Royal Places Inc. $60,000 $60,000
Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation $55,000 $55,000
Silver Hill Hospital $25,000 $25,000 $50,000
International Center for the Preservation of Wild Animals* $50,000 $50,000
Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation $50,000 $50,000
American Educational Foundation Inc.* $50,000 $50,000
Encounter for Culture and Education $25,000 $25,000 $50,000
Mayo Clinic $50,000 $50,000
Wildlife Conservation Society $20,000 $25,000 $45,000
American Association for Aerosol Research $4,000 $4,000 $4,000 $12,000 $4,000 $13,000 $41,000
Doctors of the World $40,000 $40,000
Community Foundation of Hudson Valley $25,010 $25,010
Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute* $25,000 $25,000
9-1-1 Veterans Inc. $25,000 $25,000
James Madison Center for Free Speech $25,000 $25,000
World Wildlife Fund $20,000 $20,000
Texas Freedom Network $5,000 $5,000 $5,000 $15,000
Ovarian Cancer Research $15,000 $15,000
Londonderry Volunter Rescue Squad $10,000 $10,000
William F Buckley Jr Program* $10,000 $10,000
Massachusetts General Cancer Center* $10,000 $10,000
The Leadership Foundation $10,000 $10,000
St. Judge's Children Hospital $10,000 $10,000
The Fund for American Studies* $10,000 $10,000
FlowerPower Foundation $5,000 $5,000
Ladies in Red $3,000 $3,000
Grand Total $69,000 $174,000 $292,000 $1,565,000 $1,770,000 $3,889,000 $7,105,215 $11,677,197 $13,492,358 $18,300,979 $24,544,570 $82,879,319

990 Forms

Key People

Rebekah Mercer — Director [7]

In addition to her role as director of the Mercer Family Foundation, Rebekah Mecer is also a board member of a number of the groups that the Mercer Foundation regularly donates to, including the following:

Location & Contact Information

According to the Mercer Family Foundation's 2014 990 form, they held the following address:

119 West 72nd Street 248
New York, NY 10069

Resources

  1. What Kind of Man Spends Millions to Elect Ted Cruz?” Bloomberg, January 20, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/Oe3hY

  2. Robert Mercer,” Inside Philanthropy. Archived November 1, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/M0nxs

  3. Study Details Dark Money Flowing to Climate Science Denial,” DeSmog, December 23, 2013.

  4. The most powerful woman in GOP politics,” Politico, September 7, 2016. Archived November 2, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/c2xts

  5. How a reclusive computer programmer became a GOP money powerhouse,” The Washington Post, October 6, 2015. Archived November 2, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/SBmwI

  6. Mercer Family Foundation,” Conservative Transparency. Data retrieved November 1, 2016.

  7. Rebekah Mercer,” LittleSis Profile. Accessed November 1, 2016.

  8. Staff & Board,” Moving Picture Institute. Archived November 2, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/t417f

  9. About: Board of Trustees,” Manhattain Institute. Archived November 2, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/oggU4

  10. Board of Trustees,” American Museum of Natural History, February 8, 2016. Archived August 29, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/6FvwU

  11. Board of Trustees,” Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. Archived November 2, 2016. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/lQsme

  12. Jon Swaine. “Offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon's attacks on Hillary Clinton,” The Guardian, November 7, 2017. Archived November 7, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/df1bt

Other Resources

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