Spending $100m To Save the Planet Is a Bad Thing

Don’t believe Tom Steyer and his liberal Super Pac’s push for climate change: donor-doers aren’t doing democracy any good.
Tom Steyer

Karl Mondon/MCT/ZUMA

Move over, Koch brothers. Clear some room, Sheldon Adelson and George Soros. There’s a new billionaire activist on the block. His name is Tom Steyer, and he’s a former hedge fund guru turned environmental activist whobelieves that, like the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, combating man-made climate change is the challenge of our time, “the issue we’ll get measured by as a country and a generation”.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Steyer, who is worth an estimated $1.5bn, plans to spend $100m (or more) during the 2014 US midterm elections. And he plans to spend all of it demanding that state and federal legislators take action to slow the rapid warming of the planet. It is by far the biggest single-person, single-issue commitment in the crooked recent history of campaign finance, and politicians who deny the science of climate change or block Steyer’s efforts can expect a blitz of negative ads from his organization. For the Republican Party, the 56-year-old Steyer is the next liberal bogeyman, the heir to Soros. For the environmental movement, he’s the new Daddy Warbucks.

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The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are The Atlantic, Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Slate, and Wired.