Tom Steyer, the California billionaire considering a run for president in 2020, traveled to Iowa on Wednesday to make an announcement, but it was not the kind of announcement many of his fellow Democrats are making there these days: He won’t be a candidate for president.
Steyer said he would instead continue with his campaign to impeach President Trump, an effort that began in 2017, and on which he has already spent $10 million on television ads.
“I said last year that I am willing to do whatever I can to protect our country from this reckless, lawless, dangerous president. Every day since, Mr. Trump has revealed new depths to his incompetence, corruption and cruelty. The threat he poses to the American people has only grown. Now, the impeachment question has reached an inflection point,” Steyer said in remarks he planned to deliver Wednesday afternoon in Des Moines.
“Therefore, I will be dedicating 100 percent of my time, effort and resources to one cause: working for Mr. Trump’s impeachment and removal from office. I am not running for president at this time.”
The former hedge fund manager said he will be hosting town halls across the country to discuss what he terms the dangers of Trump’s presidency. He is planning trips to Nevada, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia in the next month — plans that initially seemed to indicate the launch of a White House run but now carry a different message. Steyer announced that he will invest $16 million going forward in efforts to “deepen Americans’ understanding of Trump’s impeachable offenses.”
He said he would focus those efforts on the constituents of the 22 Republican senators up for reelection in 2020.
Before speculation swirled about a potential 2020 run, Steyer gained attention as one of the Democratic Party’s most generous donors.
The super PAC he founded in 2013 — NextGen Climate (now known as NextGen America) — contributed about $74 million to Democratic causes during the 2014 midterm elections — making him the single biggest individual donor that year — as well as $96 million in 2016 and nearly $61 million during the 2018 midterms.
He contributed to numerous state-level campaigns and environmental initiatives in California, as well as to the presidential campaigns of John F. Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Steyer was one of several billionaires considering a run for president, a group that continues to include former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks.
Steyer, 61, built his fortune running a hedge fund, Farallon Capital, but sold his shares in the company in 2012. Forbes estimates his net worth at about $1.6 billion — of which Steyer has committed half to charity, in accordance with the Giving Pledge he made.
The bulk of Steyer’s activism centers on environmental causes, and in 2013, he staged a controversial campaign asking universities such as Middlebury and Brown to divest in fossil fuels. Attacks flew in, citing Steyer’s own investments in fossil fuels as hypocritical. Steyer responded by offering to divest in fossil fuel companies, which he did by 2014, according to his staff. But those investments would almost certainly have become problematic for him in any presidential run, when he would have faced financial and personal scrutiny he does not face in the private sector.
Steyer considered a run for statewide office in California in 2018 but more recently has focused on a platform based on what he calls “5 Rights”: the right to vote, to clean air and water, to learn, to a living wage, and to health through universal health care.