Billionaire Targets '14 Races in Climate Change Fight

Billionaire Targets '14 Races in Climate Change Fight
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Retired billionaire financier Tom Steyer intends to raise up to $100 million this election cycle "to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers,” according to the New York Times. The California Democrat is currently building a liberal political network to rival the conservative groups financed by Charles and David Koch.

According to the Times, Steyer hosted “two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists” at his ranch in Pescadero, Calif., earlier this month. There, he pitched his plan to raise $50 million from donors, a sum he pledged to match. That money would be used in specific midterm elections, such as the Florida gubernatorial race or the Iowa U.S. Senate race.

However, $100 million may not be the ultimate goal. “Is it going to take $100 million? I have no idea,” Steyer said in an interview with the Times. “I think that would be a really cheap price to answer the generational challenge of the world.”

Steyer, an environmentalist, has already spent millions directly challenging the Keystone XL pipeline. Last year, he donated $11 million to Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial bid in Virginia and ran ads in a Massachusetts congressional primary. He also spent tens of millions of dollars on a California ballot initiative in 2012.

Steyer’s principal organization is NextGen Climate Action, which encompasses “a super PAC, a research organization and a political advocacy nonprofit.” The group almost exclusively targets Republicans, though its primary focus is to elect candidates who support climate change legislation. Asked about the importance of maintaining Democratic control of the Senate, Steyer told the Times, “As long as we have this partisan divide on energy and climate, it’s got to be important.”

Although many liberal activists have bemoaned the big spending of conservative outside groups, Steyer insisted that “we’ve accepted the world as it is.” 

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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