Hedge-fund tycoon Mercer backs group attacking IRS

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07:  Bob Mercer attends the World Science Festival Gala on April 7, 2014 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)


The New York investor Robert Mercer, whose hedge fund avoided an estimated $6 billion in taxes through trades the Internal Revenue Service is challenging, has been funding a group that’s paying for an unrelated Tea Party lawsuit against the tax agency.
Mercer’s family foundation gave $500,000 in 2014 to a group called Citizens for Self Governance, according to a new filing obtained by Bloomberg this month. Run by the activist Mark Meckler, Citizens for Self Governance has been financing a federal class-action lawsuit since 2013 over the targeting of Tea Party organizations by the IRS.
Over the past few years, Mercer has emerged as one of the biggest patrons of conservative causes in the country. He’s the top donor in the U.S. presidential race so far, having pumped $11 million into a super-PAC backing Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. He’s also the co-chief executive officer of Renaissance Technologies LLC, a Long Island-based hedge-fund management firm that has generated billions of dollars in profits with computer- driven trading strategies.There’s no sign that Mercer’s support for Citizens for Self Governance is related to his hedge fund’s tax dispute, and the group supports several other projects, such as advocating for changes to the Constitution to limit the role of the federal government. Jonathan Gasthalter, a spokesman for Mercer, declined to comment.
The IRS’s scrutiny of Renaissance involves a series of trades known as “basket options” that the hedge fund made with banks between 1999 and 2013. According to a 2014 report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Renaissance used them to claim a lower tax rate on an estimated $34 billion in profits from the firm’s flagship fund, cutting investors’ taxes by more than $6 billion. The fund is open only to Renaissance employees.
In 2012, the IRS challenged the treatment of some of the trades and demanded more taxes. Renaissance says the transactions were proper and weren’t tax-motivated. The dispute ended up in an internal IRS appeals process that can take many years to
A Northern California lawyer and former herbal-supplements salesman, Meckler co-founded Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest Tea Party groups, in 2009. He left in 2012 after an internal power struggle.
Later that year, Meckler joined Citizens for Self Governance, then a small Texas nonprofit that is also known as the John Hancock Committee for the States. He quickly boosted fundraising, to $4.8 million in 2014 from $1.2 million in 2012.

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