David M. Magerman, the Merion Station-based computer scientist suspended by hedge fund Renaissance Technologies Corp. last week after criticizing co-CEO Robert Mercer's role in the Trump presidency in a Wall Street Journal interview, hasn't heard back yet from his 20-year employer on whether he still has a job.
So Magerman said Wednesday he wanted to use his "15 minutes" of fame "to clarify my message" — that actions like Mercer's move the U.S. away from democracy and toward "oligarchy."
Despite political differences, Magerman said, "I fully support [Mercer's] desire to engage in conversations about his views, financially support like-minded politicians, and speak out in support of political actions that further his goals." Personal involvement in political causes is important to democracy, he added.
"However, there is a difference between giving someone money to support their views, on the one hand, and investing in someone in a contractually binding way to see that the politician's views and actions are supplanted by the donor's," Magerman added.
"Robert Mercer hasn't invested in Donald Trump because he believes in Trump's campaign platform," he noted, pointing out that Mercer first donated to Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who "is far more aligned with Mercer's worldview" than Trump.
"So, what did Mercer's investment in Trump amount to? He was effectively buying shares in the candidate, and Robert Mercer now owns a sizable share of the United States presidency."
Magerman noted that Trump's political adviser Stephen Bannon joined Trump after heading Breitbart News, "of which Mercer owns a significant percentage." Trump aide Kellyanne Conway "came from Mercer's circle of political foundations." Mercer's daughter Rebekah "represented [Mercer's] interests and his worldview with her presence on the transition committee and her close relationship with Bannon and Conway.
"Mercer also has insisted that Trump use his company Cambridge Analytica, which uses its statistical models of voter psychology to get unpopular initiatives, such as electing Donald Trump, through the electorate.
"Mercer has surrounded our president with his people, and his people have an outsized influence over the running of our country, simply because Robert Mercer paid for their seats."
For Magerman, that makes Mercer "an extreme example of modern entrepreneurial philanthropy," in which donors to "causes, political, religious, and social, do not think of their donations as gifts," but as "investments that carry the entitlement to influence decision-making, hiring, and mission.
"I know this because up until recently I was one of those donors. I tried to buy influence in the schools in my community, in my synagogue, and in other communal institutions." Philadelphia Magazine and the Jewish Exponent have chronicled the impact of Magerman's giving to local Jewish schools, including one he started, the pushback that sometimes followed, and Magerman's disappointment at the complications.
"These investments all failed for one key reason: communal institutions are not for sale, and you should not be able to buy stock in them," Magerman said. "They should serve their community, not their donors. When communal organizations, or governments, allow their donors to subvert their missions, they inevitably betray their missions, as our government is betraying us now.
"I have learned this lesson, and it is time for Robert Mercer and the rest of the 0.001 percenters to learn it, too," he concluded. Or else "America will cease to be a democracy for 300 million people, and instead will be an oligarchy for 3,000."