Are billionaire GOP mega-donors the Mercers getting ripped off by their poisonous proteges?
Billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah are known as deep-pocketed patrons of the far-right, investing in cultural as well as political projects ranging from Steve Bannon’s Breitbart.com “killing machine” to financing a Republican primary challenger to Arizona’s Trump-averse Sen. Jeff Flake.
However, according to Vanity Fair, heavily-subsidized provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and other Mercer proteges are fleecing the wealthy donors for millions in “party money” and offering little or no return to the investors.
“As the billionaire father-daughter duo behind Breitbart and, later, Donald Trump, the enigmatic Mercers flex their muscles much like the rest of their wealthy conservative mega-donor ilk: by sitting on think-tank boards, backing super PACs, funding scholarships, and donating to candidates,” wrote VF‘s Tina Nguyen.
“But the Mercers also think rather differently from their peer group, acting as angel investors for projects they hope will shift the cultural conversation. In 2012, they invested $10 million in Breitbart and then watched it turn into a blazingly offensive news organ for pro-Trump opinions; with the founding of Milo Inc. this year, they hoped to break into the next generation,” she said.
Milo Inc. is Yiannopoulos’ self-run media company, which he founded after transforming virtually overnight from a rising conservative star to a reviled media pariah. The fall came earlier this year when video emerged of Yiannopoulos speaking favorably of predatory sexual relationships between older men and young boys.
Yiannopoulos was cast out of his position as Breitbart.com’s tech editor and publishing house Simon and Schuster shelved plans to publish Dangerous Fa**ot, Yiannopoulos’ ghostwritten memoir.
“In this context, Milo Inc. can be viewed as the Mercer version of the conservative movement’s oft-failed attempt to Appeal to the Youths. (Watch any Republican attempt to prove their hipness and the struggle is immediately clear.),” Nguyen wrote.
In spite of his obvious baggage, the Mercers were willing to bet on Milo Inc. as a way to “create a media empire that could bring in younger voters, make money, and drive a wedge in the culture war.”
Thus far, Yiannopoulos has stunningly failed to deliver, from his shambolic “Free Speech Week” at the University of California at Berkeley which fizzled before it ever got off the ground to his embarrassing “outing” as a dabbler in neo-Nazism and white supremacy.
“The Mercers are already immune to negative press,” said one source. “They invested in Milo knowing that he would generate negative press, knowing that he’s someone with a past, someone with controversial habits. No revelation is going to take that away.”
Yiannopoulos’ string of failures and humiliations has some other right-wing media operatives daydreaming about what they could do with the kind of Mercer money the pearl-encrusted, Armani-wearing Yiannopoulos seems to revel in squandering.
“As Yiannopoulos flails, some of his erstwhile allies are hoping to dip into the Mercers’ reliable honeypot. The person familiar with their investment habits told me that he knew of several other start-up ventures trying to pitch to the Mercers at the Owl’s Nest, their waterfront Long Island retreat,” Nguyen reported.
One conservative media professional told Nguyen that the Mercers are making a poor investment on the erratic, flamboyant Yiannopoulos.
“Forget everything else, it’s a huge business mistake,” he said. “Because if you’re going after the Roy Moore vote, the coke-using male prostitute guy may not be the best bet.”
“I don’t know what’s going to break the Mercers, to wake them up,” said a former Yiannopoulos collaborator. “That’s a mistake they’re going to have to make for themselves. But I can guarantee you, that money is not being used efficiently. It’s not being used responsibly. It’s basically party money.”
Meanwhile Steve Bannon — another recipient of the Mercers’ largesse — has been fired from the White House and is trying to wage “war” against the GOP establishment from the vantage point of Breitbart.com.
However, the “alt-right” website has lost a big chunk of its audience and 90 percent of its advertisers since the 2016 election, making it unclear just how much impact Bannon can have. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) laughed off Bannon’s threats against him and other Republicans by calling the alt-right maven an expert at “nominating people who lose.”