U.S. journalists sometimes use the phrase “Russian oligarchs” to describe obscenely rich Russians affiliated with Vladimir Putin, who doles out wealth to consolidate power. It’s meant to convey the corrupt, anti-democratic nature of Putin’s regime.
We’ve got our own oligarch problem. While Trump has thus far proved too soft and stupid to replicate a Putinesque regime on American soil, it hasn’t been for lack of trying or scarcity of resources. In addition to the Republican Party, Trump has American oligarchs in his corner, including Robert and Rebekah Mercer.
The Mercers, along with Steve Bannon, are investors in Cambridge Analytica, the shady data company that played a role in Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Mueller’s team and the congressional committees are investigating.
The jury is still (technically) out on whether the Mercers colluded with a hostile foreign power to swing the election. But earlier this month, BuzzFeed exposed the Mercers as direct funders of Nazi and white supremacist outreach on behalf of Trump and the Republican Party, via Bannon and his repulsive henchman Milo at the Breitbart hate site.
These Nazi-linked American oligarchs are continuing to amass wealth and influence, largely under the radar — and some of our most well-known institutions are helping them do it via a hedge fund called Renaissance Technologies. Jedd Legum and Danielle McLean at ThinkProgress published a terrific piece yesterday about “RenTech” and how foundations, public sector pensions, scientific institutions, etc., are funding white supremacy, whether they know it or not. An excerpt:
Neither Mercer’s involvement in Breitbart, nor his support for Yiannopoulos, nor charges of discrimination, have appeared to negatively impact his business. Renaissance Technologies now manages $45 billion in assets, up from $27 billion at the start 2016, according to Forbes. Outside investors pay a hefty fee for the privilege of accessing a Renaissance fund and a good deal of that money ultimately ends up in Mercer’s pocket.
The identity of Renaissance’s investors has largely remained secret. The company is not obligated to disclose their clients, who are generally required to invest at least $25 million. ThinkProgress, however, has been able to identify numerous investors in Renaissance by identifying institutions that, either voluntarily or by law, disclose how they invest their money. This includes reports from public pension plans, non-profit filings, and university endowment reports.
Here are the 10 RenTech investors ThinkProgress revealed in the piece:
The Public Schools Employee Retirement System of Missouri
Michigan State University
The Employee Retirement System of the City of Providence
Los Angeles Water & Power Employees Retirement Plan
National Academy of Sciences
Baltimore Fire and Police Employees’ Retirement System
The William Penn Foundation
American Physical Society
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
When I was a college student back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, anti-apartheid activists took on universities, pressuring them to divest from US-based multinational companies with South African holdings. Shouldn’t companies run by American oligarchs with Nazi ties get the same treatment?
It’s likely the institutions ThinkProgress revealed as RenTech investors had no idea they’re helping to inject Nazism and other flavors of white nationalism directly into the bloodstream of one of our two major political parties, thus undermining American democracy itself. Well, now they know, and it’s time for them to choose a side.