Billionaire plans $100 million campaign for Democrats

February 18, 2014

Tom Steyer in a 2012 portrait. (Jahi Chikwendiu/Washington Post)

Billionaire Tom Steyer plans to spend as much as $100 million pushing the issue of climate change in the 2014 election, and appears primed to rival the deep-pocketed and conservative Koch brothers, according to the New York Times's Nicholas Confessore.

Confessore reports that Steyer, one of the world's most successful hedge fund founders, is "seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers."

Steyer previously played a big role in the Virginia governor's race, spending millions on now-Gov. Terry McAuliffe's (D) successful campaign.

Here's more, from the Times:

Now he is rallying other deep-pocketed donors, seeking to build a war chest that would make his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, among the largest outside groups in the country, similar in scale to the conservative political network overseen by Charles and David Koch.

In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.

The money would move through Mr. Steyer’s fast-growing, San Francisco-based political apparatus into select 2014 races. Targets include the governor’s race in Florida, where the incumbent, Rick Scott, a first-term Republican, has said he does not believe that science has established that climate change is man-made. Mr. Steyer’s group is also looking at the Senate race in Iowa, in the hope that a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.

Mr. Steyer also prospected for potential donors on a recent trip to New York City, where he met with aides to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has made championing climate change a focus of his post-mayoral political life, but whose own “super PAC” has focused chiefly on gun control.

“Our feeling on 2014 is, we want to do things that are both substantively important and will have legs after that,” Mr. Steyer said in an interview. “We don’t want to go someplace, win and move on.”

Mr. Steyer, 56, accumulated more than $1.5 billion during his days at the hedge fund Farallon Capital Management, before he retired in 2012. Today, he is among the most visible of a new breed of wealthy donors on the left who call themselves “donor-doers,” taking a page from the Kochs, Mr. Bloomberg and others to build and run their own political organizations — outside the two parties and sometimes in tension with them.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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