GOP megadonor Mercer family donated to nonprofit conservative group that focuses on historic values of 'English-speaking peoples'

Key Points
  • The Republican megadonor family led by billionaire Robert and daughter Rebekah Mercer once donated to the Anglosphere Society, a group of conservative activists that promotes "cultural events for sharing ideas based on the historic values of English-Speaking Peoples."
  • The founder of the organization confirmed to CNBC it received the check after she met with Rebekah Mercer at an event supporting veterans. The $25,000 donation was quietly made in 2017 through the Mercer Family Trust.
  • The Anglosphere Society used the money to help pay for an event featuring Fox News analyst Gen. Jack Keane and former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus.
Robert Mercer and Rebekah Mercer attend the 2017 TIME 100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 25, 2017 in New York City.
Patrick McMullan | Getty Images

The Republican megadonor family led by billionaire Robert Mercer once donated money to a conservative group that bills itself as a promoter of "cultural events for English-speaking peoples."

The $25,000 donation was quietly made in 2017 through the Mercer Family Trust to the Anglosphere Society, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, which has ties to prominent members of the Washington, D.C., power establishment.

The founder of the Anglosphere Society, Amanda Bowman, confirmed in an email and a follow-up interview with CNBC that Mercer's daughter, Rebekah, directed the contribution to her nonprofit in 2017 in support of an event titled "Leadership in Perilous Times."

"What I was so grateful to Rebekah for was her donations enabled me to invite all these different veterans, and it was just a one-time thing," Bowman said. She added that the Anglosphere Society did not hear from Mercer again after that donation.

A spokesman for Robert Mercer did not return repeated requests for comment. The attorney listed on the family foundation tax form that shows the donation also did not return an email for comment.

Bowman said the Mercer donation partially funded the gathering, which featured Fox News analyst Gen. Jack Keane and Gen. David Petraeus, a former CIA director. The two retired generals are pictured together on Anglosphere's website at the event. Keane has said he turned down an offer from President Donald Trump to serve as Defense secretary.

Bowman said the donation came after she and Rebekah Mercer met at a separate meeting for veterans.

The Anglosphere Society identifies itself on its website as an "independent, educational, non-profit, tax-exempt membership organization focused on promoting the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, free market economies, and cultural events for English-Speaking Peoples." It also says that it promotes "cultural events for sharing ideas based on the historic values of English-Speaking Peoples."

The group, which was founded in 2012, also promotes itself as having an influential network. Pictures on the group's website show prominent event attendees such as former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who became an independent after losing a Democratic primary in his state, and Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of State under President Richard Nixon.

Bannon and Cambridge Analytica

The Mercers used to support former White House chief strategist and Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon, who promoted a nationalist, pro-West agenda. He was formerly the executive chairman of conservative news website Breitbart News, which was funded in part by the Mercers.

Trump fired Bannon from the White House in August 2017, which paved the way for Bannon to return to Breitbart. However, in January 2018, Bannon resigned from the media outlet after Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" revealed that he ripped Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son.

The family distanced itself from Bannon, and Robert Mercer said in 2017 that he would be selling his stake in Breitbart to his daughters. The elder Mercer also stepped down as co-CEO of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies last year.

The Mercers were also embroiled in the controversy surrounding data-gathering firm Cambridge Analytica, which played a role in attempting to use social media to influence voters during the 2016 campaign. Bannon was once an executive at the firm.

Bowman, the Anglosphere Society founder, said she might not have accepted the Mercer donation if she had known about the Mercers' funding of the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica.

"It [the contribution] was before the whole Cambridge Analytica thing had broken. I would've been more cautious had I known that. Cambridge Analytica was a scandalous thing, and I wouldn't have wanted to distract from the cause," she said.

The Mercers spent millions to fund the firm, which harvested the data of millions of Facebook users and then used the information they gathered as a tool to manipulate voters. Cambridge Analytica did some work for the 2016 Trump campaign.

Cambridge Analytica has also been accused of having an impact on the vote for the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, also known as Brexit. Facebook has denied that it had any impact on the vote.

Bowman, who grew up in the U.K. and later become a U.S. citizen, would not commit to giving back or refunding the $25,000 check now that she's aware of what took place.

She also repeatedly said the Anglosphere Society has no ties to the Trump administration and is nonpartisan. She acknowledged that she has conservative beliefs, but said she does not support Brexit.

The Mercers and the Anglosphere cause

Rebekah Mercer, a prolific GOP donor, manages the family's trust fund. The family spent more than $15 million backing Trump during the 2016 presidential election. Over the years, the elder Mercer has contributed over $10 million to his family's trust and has led to their assets having a net worth of approximately $30 million, according to the most recent filing.

The revelation of the Mercers' donation to the Anglosphere Society comes as they try to publicly distance themselves from Trump and the party as a whole. Behind the scenes, though, the family continues supporting causes that match its often-conservative values.

The tax filing showing the Mercers' Anglosphere donation was first reported by MapLight, a nonpartisan and nonprofit research center that tracks the influence money has on politics. The report focused on how the Mercers funneled $4 million to various climate skeptic groups. The report did not discuss the contribution to Anglosphere.

Anglosphere's Bowman is a former New York director of the conservative think tank Center for Security Policy, according to the group's website. The Center for Security Policy's executive chairman is Frank Gaffney Jr., who, in 2011, pushed a conspiracy theory claiming that members of President Barack Obama's administration were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Gaffney is also pictured at at least one of the events hosted by Anglosphere.

Bowman explained her past ties to the Center for Security Policy was connected to what she describes as a "post-9/11 situation. I felt it was very important to get engaged in the issues that have led to the attacks." Bowman said Gaffney is not a member of the Anglosphere Society.

Other members of the group's board include Chair Vicki Downey, who is a lieutenant of Catholic group the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; Clark Judge, a former speech writer for President Ronald Reagan; and Nina Shea, a director at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.

The topics of discussion during Anglosphere's gatherings, according to its website, range from debating the merits of Brexit, to celebrating Winston Churchill's birthday as a "celebration of the Anglo-American experience" and "honoring some outstanding Brits who have made a major contribution as American citizens."

On Brexit, the group's leadership regularly cheers on current Prime Minister Theresa May. Bowman and Lee Cohen, the society's New York director, penned a Fox News opinion article in 2017 titled "Britain's Theresa May is here and Winston (Churchill) is back." The op-ed praises Trump for a meeting he held with May, saying that the president was signaling "his own reset of the Special Anglo-American Relationship."