[Stephen Bannon] was appointed [CEO of the Trump campaign] a day after the recently ousted Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, emerged in an advisory role with Mr. Trump. It was not lost on Republicans in Washington that two news executives whose outlets had fueled the anti-establishment rebellion that bedeviled congressional leaders and set the stage for Mr. Trump’s nomination were now directly guiding the party’s presidential message and strategy.Wait -- what? Roger Ailes is now seen as having been an anti-establishment threat to the GOP mainstream? Didn't the GOP rely on Ailes to be its communications director for twenty years? Sure, that Tea Party thing got a wee bit out of control, but there was never the slightest indication that the Republican Party was upset at Fox News, or wanted to stop using Fox to disseminate its talking points. Why this revisionist thinking?
The truth is, Fox News has always made its audience angrier, more radical, and more conspiratorial than was good for the party in the long run. And, of course, Fox allowed Donald Trump to establish himself as a political pundit on its airwaves. But until 2016, the only negative consequence for the GOP was that its presidential nominees in 2008 and 2012 had to appease the Fox-maddened crazies, and thus ran campaigns that were too right-wing to succeed. In this cycle, though, it all came crashing down with Trump. Ailes, a guy who was extremely useful to the GOP, helped to turn it into what it is now.
But there hasn't been a clear line between establishment Republicanism and the fringe for years. Consider the rich donors who now have significantly increased influence in Trump World:
Donald Trump’s dramatic staff shake-up on Wednesday revealed the growing influence wielded on his campaign by a Republican mega-donor duo.More:
The fingerprints of Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund billionaire, and his middle daughter, Rebekah, can be seen all over the new Trump staffing appointments and other decisions being made by the GOP presidential nominee....
Robert Mercer has reportedly made a “substantial” additional investment of at least $1 million in the new [Defeat Crooked Hillary] super-PAC, which has already spent $500,000 on digital ads attacking Clinton in eight battleground states. Additionally, he and particularly Rebekah have become influential figures in Trump World in the past few months.
Trump's new top operatives -- Stephen Bannon, the campaign's new chief executive, and Kellyanne Conway, the campaign manager -- are longtime advisers to the Long Island, New York-based investor and have aided his family on a web of interlocking projects....It's easy to portray the Mercers as fringe-y:
Mercer's ties to Bannon date to at least to 2011, when Bannon's conservative Breitbart News network was struggling financially, and Mercer made a $10 million equity investment, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The next year, Bannon founded an organization called the Government Accountability Institute to research cronyism in Washington, and Mercer's family foundation became a major supporter.
The group produced a book, "Clinton Cash," last year highlighting conflicts of interest between the Clintons' government service and their family foundation's courting of foreign donors. This year, Bannon and Rebekah Mercer turned the book into an hour-long documentary. Robert Mercer sent his 203-foot yacht, Sea Owl, to the premier of the film at Cannes.
A surprising amount of Mercer’s attention and money finds its way to some of the most unusual fringes of the right wing. He’s attended and funded an annual conference organized by Jane Orient, an Arizona physician and activist who recently suggested in an opinion article that elements in the U.S. government might have taken part in the San Bernardino massacre. Mercer money also found its way to an Idaho activist named Fred Kelly Grant, who travels the country encouraging legal challenges to environmental laws, which he says are part of a sinister plot by the United Nations to depopulate rural America.And then there's this:
One of [Robert Mercer's] most long-standing beneficiaries is a chemist and sometime Congressional candidate who is collecting thousands of vials of human urine in freezers in rural Oregon for medical research.I've written about this candidate, Art Robinson, who has collected urine:
Robinson, co-founder of the nonprofit Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, said he is hoping to get 15,000 samples to help calibrate a machine that could use urine profiles to help predict if a person will develop degenerative diseases such as cancer.But that seems less crazy than crackpot notions such as the belief that radiation is good for your health:
In a monthly newsletter called Access to Energy, Robinson has used his academic credentials to float theories on everything from AIDS to public schooling to climate change (which he believes is a myth). In perhaps his most famous missive, Robinson once proposed using airplanes to disperse radioactive waste on Oregon homes, in the hopes of building up resistance to degenerative illnesses.But many Mercer donations have been very much in the GOP mainstream:
"All we need do with nuclear waste is dilute it to a low radiation level and sprinkle it over the ocean -- or even over America after hormesis is better understood and verified with respect to more diseases," Robinson wrote in 1997. He added, "If we could use it to enhance our own drinking water here in Oregon, where background radiation is low, it would hormetically enhance our resistance to degenerative diseases. Alas, this would be against the law." ...
In another essay, he called public education "the most widespread and devastating form of child abuse and racism in the United States," leaving people "so mentally handicapped that they cannot be responsible custodians of the energy technology base or other advanced accomplishments of our civilization."
Robinson theorized that the government had overhyped the AIDS epidemic in order to force social engineering experiments on those aforementioned public school students....
[Robert] Mercer [has] donated ... $668,000 directly to the Republican National Committee....American Crossroads is Karl Rove. Freedom Partners is the Koch brothers. These aren't donations to the fringe.
Mercer has given ... $2 million to American Crossroads ... and $2.5 million to Freedom Partners Action Fund.
And what was Mercer's specific goal with that money to Freedom Partners?
Big donations included a $2.5 million check to Kochs' Freedom Partners Action Fund—more than what the Koch bothers themselves gave to it -- a "super" political action committee that spent $24 million to support Republicans including winners Joni Ernst in Iowa and Cory Gardner in Colorado....So Mercer cash bankrolled the campaigns of some rising stars who are very much in the GOP mainstream (Cotton) or who've been welcomed into the mainstream despite fringe beliefs (Ernst, Gardner).
Mercer also gave $1 million or more each to super PACs Club for Growth Action, which worked to limit the size of government by backing conservative candidates like Arkansas Senate winner Tom Cotton; Ending Spending Action Fund, which also focused on small government by attacking Georgia Senate loser Michelle Nunn, a Democrat; and John Bolton Super PAC, a group supporting the potential GOP presidential candidate and other politicians who are seen as strong on defense, such as North Carolina Senate winner Thom Tillis, a Republican.
The Mercers aren't barbarians who stormed the GOP barricades -- they were invited guests. For that matter, so was Trump, who gave a lot of money to within-the-pale Republicans, and whose endorsement Mitt Romney actively sought even after Trump went birther. Republicans, nobody forced you to take money from wealthy enablers of crackpots and racists. This is a crisis of your own making.