Liberal Billionaire Tom Steyer: Green Godfather to Democrats, or Green Pied Piper?
Once upon a time, Democrats complained about fatcats funding campaigns. Then they discovered that it was they who had the fatter cats. So that made the situation different: Fatcats—at least liberal fatcats—are okay.
The problem for elected Democrats, though, is that while the money is good, the politics are bad. The new breed of Demo-fatcat demands that candidates embrace a Green ideology that happens to be ballot-box poison.
But Greenism is political poison, of course, only if the voters find out about it. And it’s possible that the money that’s enticing Democratic candidates can also be used, unfortunately, for bamboozling the voters. We’ll know for sure this November.
As recently as late last year, President Obama was asked about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, a decision that opened the door wider to big campaign donations. Quoth the President:
There aren’t a lot of functioning democracies around the world that work this way, where you can basically have millionaires and billionaires bankrolling whoever they want, however they want.
Yet interestingly, Obama made no mention of campaign finance reform in his 2014 State of the Union address. This agenda-setting speech is typically encyclopedic in its laundry-listing of everything that’s on a commander-in-chief’s mind—and yet in this particular speech, nearly 7000 words long, POTUS made no mention of money in politics.
So why the silence? What might have chilled the President’s interest? One possible clue can be found in a news article in Sunday’s Washington Post headlined, “Environmental advocates target climate change as Democratic election issue.” Actually, the headline might be translated to read, “Green liberal billionaires plot to elect Democrats who will squeeze down the energy industry.” Indeed, the piece details the efforts of former vice president Al Gore and a coterie of billionaires, mostly clustered in the San Francisco Bay Area, including hedge funder Tom Steyer and Esprit founder Susie Tompkins Buell, to bankroll the Democrats to victory in 2014.
Or maybe we should say, “bankroll Democrats to survival.” As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asserted on Sunday, “a rosy scenario” for Senate Democrats in 2014 is to lose only five seats, and they could, he added, lose as many as 10. In other words, Democrats need all the help they can get.
And they can get help from Big Green, and lots of it—but at a price. As Washington Post writer Juliet Eilperin wrote, “Wealthy environmentalists are pushing Democrats to take bolder positions on climate change.” Once again, if we might be allowed to translate, “wealthy” means, in fact, “super rich.”
Steyer, for example, retired from investing to devote himself full time to liberal-left activism, mostly, green activism; he seems determined to play the role of Green Godfather. He reportedly spent $11 million to help elect Democrat Terry McAuliffe as governor of Virginia, and he has pledged another $100 million more in the coming the 2014 midterm elections; a look at his website, Next GenClimate.org, shows he is perfectly happy to be the upfront face of all his political efforts.
Some might say, of course, that these liberal Greens are simply trying to keep up with the big spenders on the right. What about, for example, the Koch Brothers? Surely it takes a lot of Steyerses to keep with the Kochs. Yet as The Washington Times recently noted:
The Koch brothers, despite their wealth and interest in politics, are not even in the major league of contributors to political causes. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics compiled a list of “Heavy Hitters,” top political donors from 1989 to 2014, and the Koch brothers are in 59th place. Thirteen of the top 20 donor groups gave nearly all of their campaign cash to Democrats, with ActBlue leading the list with $97.2 million, all of it contributed to Democrats… Only three of the top 20 donor groups gave predominantly to Republicans.
In other words, the left is beating the right at the big-money game. So once again, we can see why the Democrats don’t seem preoccupied anymore with the goal of “getting money out of politics.”
And yet money talks, of course, loudly. Returning to Sunday’s Washington Post article, we might translate more of the polite reportage into blunter talk, starting with the reference to “bolder positions on climate change.” What does “bolder” mean? What’s a bolder position? Here’s what it means: A big lurch to the Green left.
At the top of the Steyer agenda is opposition to the Keystone Pipeline. And that’s problematic for politicians in most parts of the country, because according to a recent poll, by a 56:41 margin, Americans support the job-creating infrastructure project. In other words, in return for their campaign cash, the Green billionaires expect Democratic politicians to take an unpopular stand on a high-profile controversy.
Yet Keystone is just the beginning. A look at Steyer’s website shows us the full panoply of San Francisco liberalism, including tax increases and the claim that climate change “ranks right up there” with “terrorism, epidemics, poverty, [and] the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
Climate change more dangerous than terrorism or rogue nations? Yes, such a claim might seem laughable to those who rightly fear Al Qaeda or Iran or North Korea, but the view seems to be widely held in elite circles. On February 16, Secretary of State John Kerry—married to yet another Green billionaire, Theresa Heinz Kerry—went one step further, declaring, “Climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction [emphasis added]." As they say, ideas have consequences. And so if jet-set liberals all agree that carbon dioxide is at least as great a threat as WMD, well, we shouldn’t be surprised that such views are shaping Obama administration policy.
Of course, Barack Obama, having been re-elected to the White House, is now done with elections; it’s the Democrats in Congress who have to face the voters this November.
So how will these Green ideas play in Peoria? And in the Heartland as a whole? One clue comes from the 2010 midterm elections, when the voters had a chance to judge House members on their 2009 vote for the “cap and trade” legislation. And for Democrats, the results weren’t pretty.
Sample headline in Politico immediately after the ’10 elections: “Democrats’ day of reckoning comes for climate vote.” As the article explained:
Democrats who voted for the controversial House climate bill were slaughtered at the ballot box, including Rep. Rick Boucher, the 14-term Virginian who helped broker some of the key deals instrumental to its June 2009 passage. In the Senate, several reliable green advocates also went down to opponents who derided tough new environmental policies.
With that in mind, what will 2014 be like for Democrats who take money from Steyer & Co. and then face the voters? Donors rich with money and guilt are one thing; voters rich with anxieties about jobs and income are quite another. As even the liberal-friendly Washington Post had to concede in its article on Steyer:
The Democratic Party’s relationship with the environmental movement remains fraught — torn between fervent believers and centrists reluctant to go against traditional energy industry interests that play a major role in their state’s economies. Most of the Democratic candidates facing the toughest Senate races at the moment are in states that traditionally favor the fossil fuel industry, including Alaska, Louisiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.
The problem, of course, is jobs and economic growth. On Steyer’s website, we see a little bit of language about the need to “preserve American prosperity”—although no mention of the need to increase American prosperity. Of course, the case for growth as a result of Green policies is a hard, if not impossible, argument to make these days; in the wake of Solyndra and all the other Green boondoggles, only a few propagandists still claim that a Green Economy will be anything more than a Lean Economy.
In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that that’s exactly what the the Greens want: Less, to them, is more. After all, the roots of today’s Green movement are found in the gloomy maunderings of Thomas Malthus, who worried about too much growth—back in the late in the late 18th century. Ever since then, the same mindset, a back-to-nature combination of pessimism and elitism, has animated the radical wing of the environmental movement.
Indeed, if we’re curious as to what the Greens really think, we need only read what they say to each other in policy discussions. One who monitors the Green Movement closely is Marc Morano of ClimateDepot.com, which points us to such revealing items as a recent press release from the Sierra Club (a group headquartered in, where else? San Francisco). In this release, a Green is approvingly quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as sustainable growth, not in a country like the US. We have to de-grow our economy.” Yes, that’s right: “de-grow.” The goal is to “de-grow our economy.”
And jobs? Should we “de-grow” them, too? Another Green quoted in the same Sierra Club item declares, “We know that when an economy isn't growing, you tend to get a fallout of higher unemployment. So you have to spread the work around more evenly.” Got that? Higher unemployment is acceptable, maybe even a goal? And we can all try to pay the mortgage on, 30 hours of work a week? Or maybe 25?
These are shocking quotes, to be sure. Yet in view of their history, why shouldn’t we take the Greens at their word—that is, when they say they want everyone to live with less?
Well, okay, maybe not everyone has to live with less: When we compare the lifestyle that Big Green billionaires choose for themselves, compared to the lifestyle that they would choose for us, words such as “double standard” and “hypocrisy” leap to mind. They might have a Prius or a bicycle for show, but when they really need to get around, limousines and private jets are the standard mode of transportation. Here’s looking at you, Al Gore!
In light of these Green Malthusian pronouncements, Steyer’s vague pledge to “preserve” America’s prosperity looks similarly double standard-ish, if not downright deceitful.
By contrast, the Koch Brothers, and their allies on the pro-growth right, are utterly sincere; what you see is what you get. Love them or hate them, they have always been upfront about what they believe in: lower taxes, less regulation, and inexpensive and abundant energy.
So voters who want growth should vote with the Kochs—and no voter who wants “more” should be deceived into voting otherwise. As for those who sincerely oppose growth, they should vote with Steyer.
Obviously such clear-cut calculus poses a big problem for Democrats, because the vast majority of voters do indeed want growth. As shown by what happened to the Democrats in the 2010 midterms, Steyer could prove to be less of a Green Godfather and more of a Green Pied Piper—piping a tune that carries Democrats to their doom.
So here’s where all the Green billionaires and their lavish campaign contributions can potentially make a decisive difference—that is, they might be able to buy some elections for Democrats. As we have seen, Obama and his allies don’t want to do anything to crimp such spending and thus stymie the attempted campaign bamboozlement.
In addition, the mainstream media can come to the aid of the Greens and the Democrats. Just over the weekend, CNN declared, “There are some stories which do not have two sides. The climate change debate is one of them.” In other words, if anyone questions the importance of climate change, well, they’re just not to be taken seriously.
Actually, while CNN might not ever want to admit it, there is a great deal of scientific literature on the other side of the debate. For a look, one might start with the work Steven Goddard, who has tirelessly tracked the oscillations of scientific “consensus”—as it has veered from dire projections of global cooling, then to projections of global warming, and now to the all-purpose catchall projection of “climate change.”
And that’s the key word, “change,” although not in the way the Greens wish to say it. Over the course of billions of years, long before humans came on the scene , the temperature of the earth has varied greatly. Why? One big reason is the sun: When the sun varies, earth varies, too. (Other big variables are volcanic eruptions and meteor strikes, neither of which are subject to human influence.)
In fact, the amount of heat that humans generate is vastly outnumbered by the amount of radiant energy coming from the star next door. Outnumbered by how much? According to the Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, NM, the solar energy that hits the earth every year is some 300,000 times greater than the world’s annual energy production. In other words, the slightest tick, upward or downward, in solar radiation has vastly more impact on the earth’s temperature than anything that mere humans might do or not do.
Scientific evidence suggests that solar radiation has decreased in the last decade or so, signaling that we might be in for a cooling period, “greenhouse gases” notwithstanding. Indeed, the recent reduction in radiation seems to explain the “pause” in warming that even global-warming alarmists have been forced to acknowledge.
In the meantime, as the science sorts itself out, national policymakers are better advised to focus on immediate issues—that is, not on the sea level in a hundred years, but, rather, on jobs and the economy.
Indeed, the importance of economic growth suggests that the American people will reject Steyer & Co. this November—no matter how much money they are willing to spend.
But we must remember: Win or lose in 2014, Steyer will still be rich, and presumably he’ll be ready to rumble yet again in 2016.
James P. Pinkerton who served as a White House domestic policy aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, has been a Fox News Contributor since 1996.