NYT Tries Best to Make Major Cruz Donor Sound Sinister on Front Page

April 11th, 2015 10:12 PM

Eric Lichtblau and Alexandra Stevenson made the front of Saturday's New York Times by taking pains to make Robert Mercer, a major donor to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, sound suspicious, even sinister: "Behind Cruz Campaign’s Striking Start, a Donor of Few Words."

Lead storywriter Lichtblau has shown himself hostile toward conservative figures over his long Times career, and he was in fine form Saturday:

The two men share a passion for unbridled markets, concerns about the Internal Revenue Service and a skeptical view of climate change.

Now the two -- Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and Robert Mercer, a Wall Street hedge-fund magnate -- share another bond that could link them through November 2016: Both want to see Mr. Cruz elected president.

Mr. Mercer, a reclusive Long Islander who started at I.B.M. and made his fortune using computer patterns to outsmart the stock market, emerged this week as a key early bankroller of Mr. Cruz’s surprisingly fast campaign start. He is believed to be the main donor behind a network of four “super PACs” supporting Mr. Cruz that reported raising $31 million just a few weeks into his campaign.

The emergence of rich and relatively low-profile donors like Mr. Mercer could single-handedly jump-start a presidential campaign, said Trevor Potter, a campaign finance lawyer who served as a Republican member of the Federal Election Commission.

“It just takes a random billionaire to change a race and maybe change the country,” Mr. Potter said. “That’s what’s so radically different now.”

Funny, when "random billionaire" and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to buy anti-gun legislation  through his group Mayors for Illegal Guns, the Times just loved it.

The Times noted that Mercer "has spent more than $15 million since 2012 in support of conservative political campaigns and causes, donating to a number of candidates who had never even met him." Later, he squeezed out some sour grapes from a couple of Democratic congressmen.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, remembers with some bitterness Mr. Mercer’s opposition to his re-election campaign in 2014 when he spent about $650,000 on attack ads and other efforts in support of a conservative challenger.

“I don’t think the guy had ever even been to Oregon,” Mr. DeFazio said. He said he believed Mr. Mercer targeted him in part because of legislation Mr. DeFazio sponsored that threatened higher taxes for hedge funds like Mr. Mercer’s fund, Renaissance Technologies.

“He’s a patron for ultra-right-wing causes,” Mr. DeFazio said, “and in a Republican presidential race, being an ultra-right-wing millionaire from Wall Street isn’t going to hurt you.”

Lichtblau nodded along with DeFazio's bitter labeling, judging from his next paragraph lamenting the Supreme Court's Citizens United case in favor of free speech:

He is also an example of how wealthy donors have been empowered by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the landmark Citizens United case, which paved the way for super PACs....Many moneyed Wall Street veterans enjoy playing the political game, hosting fund-raisers and speaking publicly about the horse they are backing. Mr. Mercer is not one of them. A computer scientist by training, he is more at ease crunching numbers than pressing the flesh. Mr. Mercer declined to comment.

The Times made Mercer sound slightly sinister.

He prefers to stay quiet about most things. After receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Association for Computational Linguistics at an event last year, Mr. Mercer told the audience he was daunted by the prospect of speaking there for an hour, “which, by the way, is more than I typically talk in a month so it’s quite a challenge.”

Intensely private, he has been described as “an icy cold poker player” whose boss once jokingly called him “an automaton,” according to a description in “More Money Than God,” a book about the hedge fund industry by Sebastian Mallaby.

Lichtblau and Stevenson dug up unflattering (and irrelevant) details:

While little of his private life has been made public, some details have emerged in recent court cases. In 2013, a group of former workers at his house sued him for not paying overtime. They also accused him of deducting money from their semi-annual bonuses as a form of punishment for, among other things, failing to replace shampoos, close doors and change razor blades. “The matter has been resolved amicably,” Troy L. Kessler, a lawyer for the employees, said.


Mr. Mercer has said nothing publicly about his financial backing for Mr. Cruz’s campaign or how he came to support him. But his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who started a bakery in Manhattan called Ruby et Violette, has been more vocal. This week she held a fund-raiser for Mr. Cruz at her Manhattan apartment.

(Rebekah Mercer serves on the board of directors of the Media Research Center.)

Renaissance was also able to increase returns by borrowing large sums of money, but the practice eventually caught the attention of Washington and government agencies. Last year the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused Renaissance of using complex financial structures that allowed it to underestimate how much it owed the Internal Revenue Service by $6 billion.

Taxpayers “had to shoulder the tax burden these hedge funds shrugged off with the aid of the banks,” Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said at a hearing last summer.

The Times didn't bother to mention that Carl Levin is a liberal Democrat who can't be expected to offer a fair assessment of a Ted Cruz donor.