Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s political action committee announced a $25 million campaign Monday to encourage young people to support and vote for green energy candidates in the November 2016 election.
Steyer’s NextGen Climate super PAC, a group that has donated tens of millions of dollars in support of candidates who push green energy policies, said it plans to deploy its considerable resources across hundreds of college campuses to get youngsters out to vote.
The California billionaire’s decision to dump millions into the upcoming election year comes as fellow billionaire Charles Koch — who, unlike Steyer, is a global warming skeptic and conservative mega-donor — indicated in an interview Sunday that he is unlikely to shovel millions into the 2016 election.
Steyer has no such qualms.
“We are determined that they will be a difference maker,” Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager who began his career at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s, told reporters during a conference call Monday.
NextGen Climate will focus its efforts in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Colorado, the last of which has a storied history with Steyer and his group.
Steyer sunk more than $8.5 million into unsuccessful bids to get anti-fossil fuel candidates elected to office in 2014.
Steyer bankrolled former Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s unsuccessful reelection bid in 2014, in part because the former senator accepted more than $4 million from Steyer. The donation and Udall’s anti-fracking positions were unpopular in fossil fuel-dependent Colorado.
The wealthy green advocate has spent more than $13 million so far this election year, according to OpenSecrets.org.
As justification for its ramp up in donations, NextGen Climate pointed to a June 2015 poll showing 73 percent of young voters believe the U.S. should receive 50 percent of its energy from solar panels and windmills, among other renewable sources, by 2030.
“We need to make sure to carry on that momentum until November,” Steyer said in the phone conference about what he sees as the younger generation’s deference toward renewable energy.
Steyer’s decision to get heavily involved in the 2016 election comes on the heels of Koch’s decision to pull back from this year’s election.
Koch told ABC’s “This Week” Sunday he won’t “put a penny” into a campaign, slowing down Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump. He also indicated that he would likely sit out of the presidential race entirely.
Koch added that all of the Republican candidates are “terrible role models.”
“We haven’t put a penny in any of these campaigns, pro or con,” Koch said. “That’s not what we do. What we’re trying to do is build alliances to make the country better.”
The conservative billionaire and his brother, David Koch, donated $274 million in anonymous 2012 contributions, more than $86 million of which was attributed to groups in the Koch network, according to the nonprofit research group Center for Responsive Politics.
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