Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist, and Donald Trump foe pledged $100 million to replace President Trump in a campaign that attacks corporate influence in Washington. The Washington Times explains:
“Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer on Tuesday jumped into the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, after saying in January that he wasn’t planning to make a run for the White House.
“Mr. Steyer’s team said his campaign will focus on fixing two major ‘crises’ — reforming a ‘broken political system” and ‘saving our planet from the ravages of climate change.’”
That’s pretty bold talk for a billionaire who made his fortune in coal. A five-year-old Reuters story provides a background on the plutocrat environmentalist:
“His in-your-face tactics have made him fierce enemies on the right who accuse him of hypocrisy and claim that he made much of his fortune through investments in fossil fuel energy at Farallon Capital Management, the San Francisco-based hedge fund he founded in 1986.
“Steyer, 56, stepped down as co-managing partner of Farallon in 2012 to devote himself to full-time activism because, as he later wrote, he ‘no longer felt comfortable being at a firm that was invested in every single sector of the global economy, including tar sands and oil.’”
As it turns out, much of Farallon’s investments have been in coal plays on the other side of the Pacific Rim.
“During Steyer’s tenure, Farallon helped finance coal project acquisitions in Indonesia and Australia valued at more than $2 billion and covering some of the region’s biggest mines, some of which swiftly ramped up production afterward, according to a close examination by Reuters of company disclosures and interviews with people involved in the deals.
“While Farallon has not made public its shares in these deals, sources familiar with the fund’s dealings say they amounted to at least several hundred million dollars.”
Steyer, with his bottomless campaign war chest, cannot help but shake up an already shaky Democratic presidential race. However, it is unclear where on the political spectrum he will land on. Will he be more of the left but not as crazy as the other folk’s wing now occupied solely by the faltering Joe Biden. Or will he pivot left and try to crowd out Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren?
Also, the question arises, is Steyer really running for president or is this an ego trip being embarked on to tout his favorite issues. Steyer has been a funder behind the scenes in previous elections and has been running a campaign to impeach President Trump. A clue may be whether or not Steyer takes on other issues besides extreme environmentalism and the corporate influence in politics.
The other Democrats will likely not welcome Steyer, despite his environmentalist and anti-Trump bona fides. His campaign smacks of Steyer trying to buy an election out from under the 24 or so who are working for the nomination.
Steyer is also vulnerable due to his past as a fossil fuel baron. To be sure, he claims to have experienced a road to Damascus moment and has now eschewed all of that filthy fuel. However, one would expect that a capitalist who has rejected fossil fuels should start investing in renewable energy. Steyer, however, has used the political approach to try to increase the share of renewable energy in the United States, with mixed success. A proposition Steyer sponsored in Arizona to increase that state’s share of renewable energy was rejected soundly by the voters, who had concluded that it would hike utility prices. However, two Michigan utility companies caved to Steyer’s pressure and vowed to increase their share of renewables to 25 percent by 2030.
Even so, it is unclear whether Steyer’s deep pockets will translate into votes. Every other Democratic candidate is an environmental zealot, so one would wonder what makes him different?
Ah, the gentle reader may note, another billionaire ran for president in 2016. Does one wonder what happened to him?
Trump’s success had more to do with an outsized personality and a message that fit nearly with public discontent with the political swamp than his billions, though being rich did not hurt. Steyer doesn’t have a personality and it is unclear that a version of the Green New Deal is going to be a political winner. However, Steyer’s leap into the political pool will be nothing if not entertaining.