Energy

Single Largest US Political Donor Is Moving ‘Beyond’ Global Warming Activism

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

The single largest donor of the last two election cycles says he’s moving his activism beyond rallying young people against global warming to lead the “resistance” against President Donald Trump.

The move comes after San Francisco hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer personally spent about $163 million in the last two election cycles supporting Democratic candidates and liberal causes, like fighting global warming.

Steyer saw his political stock rise after throwing millions behind efforts to oppose the Keystone XL oil pipeline, eventually creating his own activist group, NextGen Climate Action, to “bring climate change to the forefront of American politics.” NextGen intended to mobilize young people and support candidates whose top priority was fighting global warming.

After two disappointing elections, is Steyer trying to mask a retreat from climate issues? Buzzfeed asked the billionaire as much, but he responded “that under the new Trump administration, progressives cannot consider causes in isolation.”

Or is Steyer branching out to build more support for a gubernatorial run in 2018? Steyer is still considering running to replace California Gov. Jerry Brown, Buzzfeed reported in its article on Steyer’s move “beyond climate.”

Either way, Steyer’s focus on global warming hasn’t yielded much, if any, success.

Steyer spent about $86 million in the 2016 election cycle, trying to get Democrats elected. Republicans, however, held onto both chambers of Congress, won the presidency and saw state legislature and governorship gains. NextGen spent about $56 million in 2016, according to campaign finance data.

NextGen spent nearly $21 million in the 2014 election cycle, but only had a 38 percent rate of supporting winning candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Steyer spent more than $73 million of his personal fortune that election cycle only to see Republicans take control of the Senate.

There’s little evidence Steyer’s activism elevated global warming to the top of the political discussion. Polling done after the election found only 2 percent of Americans said “the environment” was their top concern.

An Associated Press-University of Chicago poll conducted in September 2016 found 57 percent of Americans wouldn’t pay more than $1 a month in higher electric bills to fight global warming.

Steyer is now reconsidering his myopic focus on global warming.

“All of these issues are merging,” Steyer told Buzzfeed in a phone interview. “There is a concerted attack from the administration and their allies against what we think of as basic American rights. It’s a barrage, honestly. It’s been a barrage against Americans and American rights.”

“It would be a mistake to try to silo issues,” Steyer said. “The response has to be much broader.”

Steyer wants to create a “network of nationwide activists, registering voters, forming alliances with other liberal groups — while still investing millions in progressive candidates, as Steyer did in 2014 and 2016,” Buzzfeed reported.

NextGen put out a video Tuesday where Steyer asked supporters to send ideas of how to fight back against Trump. Steyer’s also said there’s “no limit” to what he would spend to defeat Trump.

“We want to know what matters most to you, and what should be done,” Steyer said in the video.

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