Steve Bannon produced the belittling 2015 book Clinton Cash. Photograph: AP/Guardian Design Team
Eighteen months afore allegorical Donald Trump to acclamation victory, Steve Bannon delivered the aperture attempt in the adamant Republican attack to acrylic their Democratic adversary as corrupt.
The approaching White House arch architect produced a book in May 2015 accusing Hillary Clinton of trading favours for donations to her accommodating foundation. Its ambiguous axial charge, on the auction of a uranium aggregation to Russia, afresh became the accountable of a House analysis and feverish allocution on bourgeois media.
But the banking arrange of addition foundation, which bankrolled Bannon’s conception of the book, Clinton Cash, accept accustomed beneath scrutiny.
Leaked abstracts and anew acquired accessible filings appearance how the billionaire Mercer ancestors congenital a $60m war chest for bourgeois causes axial their ancestors foundation by application an adopted advance agent to abstain US tax.
The adopted agent was allotment of a adjustment of companies in the Atlantic tax anchorage of Bermuda led by Robert Mercer, the affluent hedge-fund controlling and Bannon angel whose spending helped put Trump in the White House and aided a improvement of the Republican right.
Mercer, 71, appears as a administrator of eight Bermuda companies in the Paradise Papers, a accession of millions of leaked abstracts on adopted accounts advised by the Guardian, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and added partners. The files accommodate a archetype of Mercer’s US authorization and added clandestine data.
Some of the Bermuda companies arise to accept been acclimated to accurately abstain a abstruse US tax of up to 39% on tens of millions of dollars in advance profits accumulated by the Mercer family’s foundation, which adjourned Bannon’s book and a who’s who of bourgeois groups, forth with a $475m retirement armamentarium for the agents of Mercer’s barrier fund, Renaissance Technologies.
Bill Parish, an Oregon-based advance adviser who has been consulted on the tax by US government investigators, said: “This is simple but ingenious. You booty retirement diplomacy or foundations, you advance them in a barrier fund, and alike if the bulk rises 100%, you can advertise off the investments with no tax consequences.”
Mercer, who beneath to animadversion for this article, has risen from about obscurity to become one of the best affecting abstracts in US conservatism. He financed ventures including the presidential campaigns of Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, the website Breitbart News and the online advocate Milo Yiannopoulos, whom he about disowned aftermost week. Mercer has alone donated $41m to federal acclamation campaigns over the accomplished decade, according to accessible filings.
A PhD computer scientist who rarely speaks publicly, Mercer is admiral and co-chief controlling of Renaissance, a New York-based aggregation that manages added than $50bn in assets. He arise aftermost anniversary that he would footfall bottomward from his administration roles at the end of the year. Renaissance frequently makes amazing returns, which it chalks up to carefully attentive trading formulas created at its Long Island offices by mathematicians and scientists.
The aggregation has additionally faced aciculate criticism for aggravating to abstain obligations to the accessible purse. The Centralized Revenue Service (IRS) has been advancing Renaissance for $6.8bn in federal taxes that it was accused of break alienated through practices declared as “abuses” in a 2014 analysis by a Senate committee. The two abandon are advancing to accommodated for negotiations this week.
Mercer additionally helps armamentarium the Mercer Ancestors Foundation, a nonprofit led by his babe and political guru, Rebekah. It has no website, agents or offices and is registered to a mailbox at a UPS abundance on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It was ahead listed at Rebekah’s $28m home in a Trump architecture nearby. The foundation’s accountant is broker of Make America Number 1, a Super Pac part-funded by Mercer, which accurate the 2016 attack adjoin Clinton.
Mercer’s foundation is barred from amid in acclamation campaigns. But over the accomplished decade, it has accustomed out $62m to bourgeois analysis groups and thinktanks whose assignment about bolsters Republicans. Amid them are arresting names including the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, and the Media Analysis Center.
From 2013 to 2015, the Mercer foundation gave $4.7m to Bannon’s Government Accountability Institute – added than bisected its absolute allotment in that time. Mercer’s foundation has not yet filed paperwork advice its 2016 spending. An IRS official said the filing was added than bristles months overdue.
Bannon founded GAI in Florida in 2012 with Peter Schweizer, the bourgeois columnist of Clinton Cash. Aback then, the GAI has paid Bannon $379,000 and Schweizer $781,000. Rebekah Mercer was a administrator of the accumulation until 2014. It has connected advancing liberals aback Trump’s achievement and says advertisement the “misuse of aborigine monies” is axial to its mission.
Mercer’s foundation additionally gave millions added to added groups that adjourned Bannon. It paid $3.8m to the nonprofit arm of Citizens United, best accustomed for the deregulation of political spending it won in a 2010 absolute cloister ruling. Bannon has fabricated films for Citizens United and amid 2012 and 2013 was paid $450,000 in consulting fees by its nonprofit arm.
The Mercer foundation gave $1.2m to the Young America’s Foundation, addition bourgeois nonprofit, which paid Bannon added than $577,000 amid 2010 and 2012 for filmmaking services, according to filings.
Mercer was additionally a above broker in Breitbart News, the affecting rightwing website that Bannon led afore abutting Trump’s campaign. Bannon alternate to the armpit afterwards actuality accursed from the White House in August. In an amazing email to Renaissance agents aftermost week, Mercer confused to ambit himself from Bannon and arise he was diplomacy his pale in Breitbart to his daughters.
Clinton Banknote dissected donations to the foundation Clinton led with her bedmate Bill, the above US president. Disputed allegations in the book – that mining admiral contributed to the Clinton Foundation to abetment their advantageous auction of a uranium aggregation to a Russian accompaniment activity bureau – admiring arresting advantage in the boilerplate media, carrying a draft to Clinton afterwards she arise her candidacy.
FBI admiral who looked into the foundation’s activities were afterwards arise to accept based their suspicions on capacity from Clinton Cash. By then, the book’s administrator had adapted added than bisected a dozen errors in the argument apropos to the Clintons’ finances, including one based on a artificial columnist release. The book continues to bell today, arch to a collective analysis on the Canadian uranium affair by two House committees arise aftermost month.
The Mercer foundation is abundantly adjourned by money it makes through investments in Renaissance’s barrier funds. Aback 2004, according to anniversary filings, the foundation has awash off added than $68.5m of backing in these investments and acclimated the money to armamentarium its operations.
While Renaissance’s basic barrier armamentarium is based in the US, the aggregation additionally has “feeder funds” congenital in Bermuda, which imposes no assets or association taxes.
Renaissance does not accept agents or offices in Bermuda. Instead, the agriculturalist funds are registered to the offices of Appleby, a acknowledged and banking casework abutting that Renaissance pays to administer its adopted affairs. The Paradise Papers accommodate a accumulation of millions of Appleby’s centralized files, including dozens on Renaissance.
Documents advised by the Guardian announce that the Mercer foundation has abhorred accountability for millions of dollars in US tax by acquisition its investments through one of these Bermuda vehicles.
Nonprofits in the US such as the Mercer foundation do not pay tax on accustomed donations from the public. But they face different business assets tax (UBIT) on money acquired through investments financed by debt, such as abounding of those by Renaissance and added barrier funds. UBIT is advised to anticipate nonprofits from actuality acclimated to attempt unfairly with approved businesses.
But nonprofits can abstain the tax by acquisition their investments through an adopted aggregation accustomed as a “blocker”. The Mercer foundation’s accessible filings to the IRS affirm it has never paid UBIT. Aback 2004, the foundation has paid $74,017 in federal customs taxes, beneath than 0.2% of its advance gains.
In Bermuda, Medallion Basic Investments was set up to booty investments from American charities or foundations “closely affiliated with an buyer or employee” of Renaissance, according to a authoritative filing acquired from the Bermuda government, which did not acknowledgment Mercer’s foundation by name.
The Mercer foundation accustomed that Medallion Basic Investments was the destination for its money in 2004 and 2005, according to ahead unreported filings to the IRS. Added recently, it has not called the armamentarium it uses. Renaissance told US authorities this year that Medallion Basic Investments captivated $1.3bn of funds endemic by the aggregation or bodies accompanying to it.
Tax attorneys and accountants consulted by the Guardian said the Bermuda agriculturalist armamentarium appeared to be operating as a acquaintance amid the Mercer foundation and the barrier armamentarium investments.
Samuel Brunson, a assistant in tax law at Loyola University in Chicago, said such arrange were about aimed at accurately alienated the tax. “If firms were accommodating to pay the tax, there would be no acumen to go offshore,” he said Brunson. “They could break onshore in a simpler arrangement.”
UBIT is answerable at up to 39% on profits. The absolute bulk owed is difficult to compute, because the tax applies alone to the allocation of advance profits adjourned by debt. Barrier armamentarium companies are not appropriate to about acknowledge how abundant debt anniversary armamentarium uses. Renaissance describes its Medallion funds as “high leverage”, acceptation aerial debt levels.
Since abutting Renaissance from IBM about 25 years ago, Mercer has accumulated amazing abundance that paid for comfortable homes in three states. His basic estate, accustomed as Owl’s Nest, is based about an $18m abode abutting to Renaissance’s Long Island campus.
The Mercers additionally own a $75m yacht, the Sea Owl, a $13.6m agronomical acreage in Florida – Owl’s Nest South – and a $3.2m retreat on 92 acreage in North Carolina. This year, they awash a Manhattan accommodation for $3.3m.
At the aforementioned time, the Mercers accept connected to arresting that they booty affliction over every penny. Bannon already explained their angle as accepting been shaped by the actuality they “came to their abundant abundance backward in life”.
In 2009, Mercer sued a Michigan-based miniature railroad aggregation that installed a scale-model clue at his home. He alleged, six years afterwards the installation, that he had been overcharged. The case was settled.
In 2011, Diana Mercer auspiciously sued a golf barrow banker in Florida for $15,000 over “mechanical problems and the poor condition” of two carts she had bought, and alternate to cloister aback the banker bootless to pay up as ordered.
A 2010 affirmation shows Diana Mercer is domiciled in Florida, which has no accompaniment assets tax. A Renaissance agent beneath to say area Robert Mercer was domiciled for tax purposes. The Mercers were beatific a bill by the accompaniment of Maryland in 2014 for $23.9m in aback taxes, but this was afterwards withdrawn. Maryland admiral and the Renaissance agent beneath to say why it was absitively they did not owe the money.
In July 2013, some calm agents who formed at the Owl’s Nest acreage sued Mercer, alleging he docked $10-$20 from their pay for errors such as “failing to alter shampoos and added toiletries if there was an bulk of beneath than one-third of a canteen remaining”. The accusation was afterwards withdrawn. An advocate for the agents did not acknowledge aback asked if they were paid a settlement.
Renaissance Technologies has striven to abstain advantageous out area possible. The acutely analytical 2014 address by the Senate abiding subcommittee on investigations said Renaissance break fabricated profits from accelerated trading arise to be abiding basic gains, which are burdened at a abundant lower rate.
The adjustment circuitous Renaissance affairs circuitous instruments accustomed as “basket options” from banks. The bipartisan Senate analysis declared the adjustment as an “abusive tax structure” and said the IRS should aggregate taxes abhorred with it. A agent for the IRS beneath to animadversion on the cachet of the dispute.
Like Mercer’s ancestors foundation, his barrier armamentarium aggregation additionally appears to use an adopted acquaintance adjustment to accurately abstain US taxes on a huge basin of retirement funds actuality accumulated by its employees. The armamentarium has existed for bristles years but is already advancing $500m in value, according to its accounts.
In 2012, Renaissance agents were black with the apathetic alimony options accessible to best Americans. So their administration acquired appropriate permission from the US government to advice supercharge their savings.
The permission meant agents could canal their boilerplate 401(k)s and carry their absolute alone retirement accounts (IRAs) into the firm’s own barrier fund, chargeless from restrictions advised to assure accustomed workers from chancy investments. Several advance admiral said they were afraid the permission was granted.
“This is a different perk,” said Mat Sorenson, an advocate based in Phoenix, Arizona, who specializes in law about retirement accounts.
When authoritative the appeal to the US government, Renaissance articular a brace of new advance cartage it had set up to ascendancy the retirement funds. These were registered in Bermuda and are amid those in the Paradise Papers that analyze Mercer as a director.
The Renaissance retirement armamentarium began with $103m in 2012. By aftermost year, it had developed to added than $476m. Added than $300m of the assets came absolutely from allotment on investments in the Renaissance barrier funds.
Ordinary Americans advance their retirement funds in this way could apprehend to face UBIT on some advance profits. But the use of the Bermuda cartage to assure Renaissance’s retirement armamentarium agency the tax is accurately avoided.
A Renaissance source, who beneath to be identified, fatigued that added companies acclimated blockers to abstain tax on retirement plan investments. But Ed Slott, an accountant based in New York who is a acclaimed ascendancy on IRAs, said the arrange were far from typical.
“It may be accustomed amid bodies with truckloads of money and big barrier funds, but it’s not accustomed amid rank-and-file, accustomed Americans who aloof save for retirement,” said Slott. “Almost cipher has the wherewithal.”
In a animadversion to a 2012 certificate able by the activity administration about Renaissance’s arrangement, admiral said the aggregation had insisted on application the Bermuda cartage so its admiral could “avoid actuality accountable to taxes on different business taxable income”.
When asked why the US government had accustomed this admiration to abstain a federal tax as a accepted annual for appropriate treatment, a agent for the administration beneath to comment.
Filings by the Renaissance alimony armamentarium additionally advance some agents may be application the adjustment to accurately abate tax on money they fabricated recently, rather than abrogation it to abound for abroad retirements.
The Renaissance agents accounts are Roth IRAs, acceptation that workers accept already paid tax on balance they accelerate to their Roth, rather than advantageous tax afterwards on money the annual pays out.
These rules are decidedly ambrosial for workers such as Renaissance staff, who apprehend their retirement accumulation to abound dramatically. They pay tax on the abate bulk activity in, rather than on the abundant bigger bulk advancing out.
Filings appearance tens of millions of dollars are actuality taken out of Renaissance’s retirement armamentarium anniversary year by workers actual at the company.
The government imposes tax and a 10% amends on funds removed aboriginal by adolescent workers. But this does not administer to aboriginal withdrawals by agents earlier than 59. Mercer is 71. A Renaissance agent beneath to say whether Mercer had acclimated the adjustment to abate tax on his income.
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