Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who is planning to donate at least $50 million to various senatorial and governor’s races in 2014 in order to target key GOP targets, is a hypocrite of the first order.
Steyer made much of his fortune as a managing partner of the hedge fund Farallon Capital, and despite his claims of environmental purity, saw the fund finance coal projects in Indonesia and Australia valued at more than $2 billion. One anonymous investor said of Steyer, “The discretion to make or break any investment rested with him.”
During Steyer’s tenure at Farallon, the fund helped finance a leveraged buyout of three Indonesian coal companies. David Price, senior coal analyst at Consultants IHS, said the buyouts helped raise Indonesia’s coal production, which quadrupled between 2002 and 2012. Not only that, but before Steyer left Farallon, the fund held $125 million in Kinder Morgan Securities, which is planning to build an oil pipeline in Canada. The fund also held $220 million in shares of Nexen, which produces oil sands.
Steyer has since left Farallon, after amassing a fortune, but the fund still invests his money. Steyer has asserted that he was “completely open” and “transparent” in his activism. But he has been reticent to discuss the details of how he made his fortune from the fossil fuel investments of Farallon. He has said he would divest his portfolio of what he called his “dirty energy” holdings, but the fact is he made an enormous amount of money from investing in that energy. And Steyer and Farallon have not been forthcoming about whether his divestment from those holdings has been completed, although Steyer’s top political strategist Chris Lehane said Wednesday that Steyer has divested his investments in coal and tar sands. Lehane added that he was unaware if Steyer still had investments in oil and natural gas.
Despite his hypocrisy, Steyer is taking his new-found ideological purity to record levels; his super PAC, NextGen Climate, will invest in television ads, field organizing, and get-out-the-vote operations. Its focus on climate change will feature the drought in Iowa and the cost of flood insurance in Florida. GOP senatorial candidates targeted for defeat include Cory Gardner in Colorado, Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, and Scott Brown in New Hampshire. Gubernatorial candidates on the list include Rick Scott of Florida, Paul LePage of Maine and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania.
Chris Lehane bragged, “Tom has made clear that NextGen is not a drive-by” super PAC. The hypocrisy does not only include Steyer, of course. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and other Democrats have been hyperventilating about the huge donations to conservative causes from Charles and David Koch, but they have no problem with Steyer.