Wall Street CEO Robert Mercer and his family spent millions of dollars to assure Donald Trump would become president. Mercer also bankrolls Breitbart, the web site that's been described as "the platform for the alt-right" by its founder, Steven Bannon. And Bannon himself has, for many years, been paid by the Mercer family for work in service of their libertarian and far-right agendas.
Also floated for many years by Mercer's wealth: a $75 million super-yacht known as the Sea Owl, which is currently docked at Emerald Landing in Seattle's Lake Union, not far from Gas Works Park.
An employee of Aleutian Spray Fisheries, which is offering dock space to the Sea Owl, told me earlier today that it is, indeed, Robert Mercer's boat. "He's a hedge-fund owner, that's his boat, and he has a house in the Hamptons," the employee said. (According to an illuminating New Yorker profile of Mercer that was published earlier this year, the Mercer home is actually in Head of Harbor, "a seaside community on Long Island," and is called Owl's Nest. "Mercer, a gun enthusiast, built a private pistol range there," the magazine reported, adding that Mercer also "installed a $2.7-million model-train set in his basement.")
It was a Slog tipper who first noticed the Sea Owl cruising into Seattle yesterday. "My baby and I were out on a leisurely stroll of the Ballard Locks this afternoon when a gigantic yacht pulled in," she wrote.
As it turns out, the web site SuperYachtFan.com offers a regularly-updated map showing the Sea Owl's coordinates and when I stopped by those coordinates earlier today, there it was: 203 feet of American oligarch splendor featuring "a jade mist green and oyster white color scheme," a sink reportedly "carved like a gem from a single block of crystal," plus "a small swimming pool, a Chihuly chandelier, silk and wool hand-knotted carpeting, and hand-carved mahogany walls."
I've sent an e-mail to Renaissance Technologies, the high-tech stock trading operation where Mercer has made a fortune serving as CEO, to double-confirm that this is, indeed, his Sea Owl. So far, I haven't heard back. But the Sea Owl currently sitting in Lake Union matches all the images of Mercer's boat that I've found online, including the images in this fawning Puget Sound Business Journal write-up from back in May, when Mercer's Sea Owl, according to the paper, sat "majestically at Emerald Landing on Lake Union, drawing oohs and ahs from those in smaller boats coming by for a look."
Today it was not exactly "oohs and ahs" when I told people around Emerald Landing about Mercer's ownership of the Sea Owl. "Give 'em hell," said one man. He let me onto a dock at a nearby shipyard so I could take better pictures of the super yacht. A worker at Emerald Landing, told of Mercer's connections to Trump, Breitbart, and Bannon, said to me: "All of a sudden I don't like him at all."
What, exactly, are Mercer's political beliefs? According to the New Yorker:
Mercer strongly supported the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be Trump’s Attorney General. Many civil-rights groups opposed the nomination, pointing out that Sessions has in the past expressed racist views. Mercer, for his part, has argued that the Civil Rights Act, in 1964, was a major mistake. According to [a] onetime Renaissance employee, Mercer has asserted repeatedly that African-Americans were better off economically before the civil-rights movement. (Few scholars agree.) He has also said that the problem of racism in America is exaggerated. The source said that, not long ago, he heard Mercer proclaim that there are no white racists in America today, only black racists.
There's more, including an alleged belief that the US should have just taken Iraq's oil during the Gulf War, alleged faith in anti-Clinton conspiracy theories, and alleged feelings that nuclear war would not actually be that harmful to humans. (If this sounds familiar from Trump speeches, remember: Mercer's money helped save Trump's flailing presidential campaign, so much so that Trump himself reportedly thanked Mercer at an Owl's Nest party after the election.)
The Internal Revenue Service has long been trying to collect $6.8 billion from Mercer's hedge fund for unpaid taxes. But then Trump was elected. As Jane Mayer, the author of the New Yorker article on Mercer, tweeted in April: "Trump's admin. can now decide whether to press for payment—or not. This is a huge financial issue for Mercer."
It's unknown whether Mercer himself is on the Sea Owl in Seattle right now. Unlike in May, his yacht appears to be keeping a slightly lower profile this visit—at least as lower profile as a 203-foot boat can get—by covering up its port and starboard nameplates. (The stern nameplate remains uncovered, however.) But if Mercer is, in fact, in town and on his boat, then the wealthy benefactor of Trump, Bannon, and Breitbart has the benefit of being guarded by "security cameras with a 360-degree view at the waterline" and "fingerprint-recognition keypads," according to Boat International—plus, of course, "a sophisticated entertainment system."