It’s not necessarily news that Sen. Bernie Sanders signed onto a green energy pledge the day before the New Hampshire primaries, but more interesting is that the puppet master behind this pledge is none other than a billionaire former hedge fund manager who’s in America’s (and Bernie’s very vocally) maligned “one percent.”
Tom Steyer is the billion-dollar laden founder of NextGen Climate, the organization that spearheaded the pledge in order to force Americans to use more green energy in the coming decades. Steyer ran the hedge fund Farallon Capital for 26 years, until he sold it in 2012 to focus on environmental activism. Steyer is worth an estimated $1.6 billion, according to Forbes, making him the 406th wealthiest man in America.
“Today, Senator Bernie Sanders stood with 27,000 New Hampshire climate action voters and Americans across the country by pledging to power our country with more than 50 percent clean energy by 2030,” Steyer said in a statement. “With the primary just a day away, Sen. Sanders’ pledge is a clear sign of just how important climate action and clean energy have become in this race.”
Sanders has made his disdain for millionaires and billionaires in the financial industry in his presidential run against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sanders has routinely lambasted Clinton taking donations from Wall Street banks. Clinton has also signed Steyer’s pledge.
Sanders have even specifically targeted hedge fund managers’ salaries to highlight U.S. income inequality. During his presidential run, Sanders proposed paying for jobs program for young people by “ending the carried interest loophole that allows billionaire hedge fund managers to pay a lower tax rate than nurses and truck drivers.”
Steyer, however, is no longer managing his hedge fund, and is now spending his money on environmental activism. During 2012, he gained notoriety by bankrolling opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline — despite potential conflicts of interests surrounding the issue.
Even though Sanders could argue Steyer is no long in finance, the liberal billionaire has spent more than $75 million of his own money promoting Democrats and backing liberal initiatives in the 2014 midterm elections.
Sanders opposes the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision for allowing wealthy individuals to “purchase the U.S. Government.” Sanders has said “billions of dollars from the wealthiest people in this country are already flooding the political process,” referring to the current election cycle.
What’s interesting is that Steyer alone outspent both the Koch brothers, Charles and David, in the 2014 elections by nearly 10 to 1. Steyer spent more than $75 million that election cycle, while the Kochs together spent more than $7.8 million. In fact, Steyer was the largest single donor in the 2014 election cycle, according to data from the Center For Responsive Politics.
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