Tom Steyer, the former hedge fund honcho who is now a billionaire focusing his energies on environmental activism, acknowledged on Thursday that he will spend $1 million to support Democrats in California in 2014 who fight for environmental causes as well as voter registration. He even stated that he will support one Democrat over another, if one is more sympathetic to environmental activism.
Steyer told the Sacramento Bee‘s editorial board, “There’s nothing, you know, in our bylaws that I’ve read that says we can’t get involved in D-on-D races, and we have.” Steyer has already tried and failed to get the state legislature to pass a tax on oil extraction as well as legislation that would limit hydraulic fracturing by necessitating a two-thirds vote of the electorate in any county to approve it. He admitted, “I don’t think we ever got close.”
Steyer’s PAC , NextGen Climate, had already attested in May that $100 million of its funds would be donated toward U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races in 2014, but Steyer would not reveal exactly whose California races he would support personally.
Styer has been waging war against the oil industry over greenhouse gas reduction measures; the oil industry is battling against expansion of California’s cap-and-trade program to vehicle fuels that is due to be implemented in 2015. Steyer is joined by sixteen Democrats in the state legislature, who signed a letter to California Governor Jerry Brown to delay expanding the program.
Sabrina Lockhart of Californians Against Higher Oil Taxes argued that Steyer is “focusing on issues that aren’t resonating with Californians.” Meanwhile, Steyer was meeting on Thursday with Brown and lawmakers. He stated that he was unsure if $1 million was all he was going to invest, because “when you get into races, things happen.” He has not given up on fighting oil extraction; he said he would reenter the fight next year for legislation hindering it. He acknowledged that the issue could be resolved on a ballot, but “the right way for these things to happen is legislatively.”
In 2010, Steyer gave millions of dollars to fight and successfully reject rolling back Assembly Bill 32, a law reducing California’s greenhouse gases and also to support a bill altering multistate corporations’ taxes and to funnel profits toward energy-saving projects.