NET WORTH: Unknown
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Renaissance Technologies
FUNDING AREAS: Policy, Education, Arts & Culture, Scientific Research
OVERVIEW: Robert Mercer established the Mercer Family Foundation in 2005. Based in New York City, this organization aims supports conservative policy development, education and arts and culture, focusing on “the defence of fundamental freedoms.” Mercer was one of the biggest supporters of President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Republican political organizations.
BACKGROUND: Robert Mercer grew up in New Mexico. He graduated from the University of New Mexico and earned a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois. He worked at IBM for several years, where he developed speech recognition programs at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center. Mercer joined James Simons's Renaissance Technologies in 1993 and eventually became co-CEO. He retired in 2017 to spend more time on research.
POLICY: Mercer is a longtime supporter of many conservative causes and organizations in the U.S. Past grantees include the Kochs’ Freedom Partners Action Fund, the Media Research Center, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute and the Heartland Institute, a think tank that is known for questioning and denying the effects of climate change. The Mercer Family Foundation also supports the non-partisan organization Reclaim New York, which “educates New Yorkers on issues like affordability, transparency, and education.”
ARTS & CULTURE: The Mercer Family Foundation has recently expanded their giving in this area. Grantees include the Frick Collection and the Foundation for Cultural Review, which publishes of the New Criterion, a journal that aims to “chapion […] what is best and most humanely vital in our cultural inheritance and […] expose what is mendacious, corrosive and spurious.” Mercer’s daughter Rebekah, who helps to run the foundation, is a trustee at the American Museum of Natural History and was embroiled in a controversy over the family’s stance on climate change and the possibility of their influence on the museum’s programming.
RESEARCH: The Mercer Family Foundation “is deeply committed to research and the scientific method.” One past grantee, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, received $1 million for its study of the effectiveness of methylenedioxymethamphetamine in the treatment of veterans with post traumatic stress disorder. Another past grantee, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, which promotes “the advancement and communication of basic mathematical knowledge, the development of human capital for the growth and use of such knowledge, and the cultivation in society at large of appreciation for the beauty, power and importance of mathematical ideas.” The foundation has also supported biomedical research at the Rockefeller University.
LOOKING AHEAD: While it has been reported that Robert Mercer has scaled back his support for the Republican Party, the Mercer Family Foundation will likely continue is support of conservative causes, education, arts and culture and research. The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, but may be contacted via its website.
Mercer Family Foundation
240 Riverside Blvd., Apt. 24A
New York, NY United States 10069