Billionaire Tom Steyer’s Bogus ‘Green Jobs’ Referendum

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Sacramento, CA

California billionaire Tom Steyer–the biggest megadonor in the last election cycle–dumped $74 million of his personal fortune in 2014 to lose most of the elections in which he played. Now Steyer can chalk up yet another political failure: the disastrous implementation of the California “green jobs” initiative (Prop. 39) that he bankrolled with $30 million in 2012.

Kudos to the Associated Press for catching Steyer’s broken promise of accountability.

Steyer campaigned that Prop. 39 would have “tough financial accountability provisions” including audits, a citizens oversight board and full public disclosure.

However, what happened after voters approved this tax is quite a different story. The AP story uncovered that:

  • the Prop. 39 oversight commission, which was approved by voters three years ago, has never met;
  • 1,700 jobs were created over three years–a far cry from the promised 11,000 jobs annually;
  • more than half of the money given so far to schools–$153 million of the $297 million–has gone to consultants and auditors, not the blue collar jobs that were promised.

Steyer, the Prop. 39 campaign sugar daddy, declined an interview for the initial story, but attempted to distance himself from the program’s failure by issuing a statement that he “wanted to respect the process of the Legislature.”

While Steyer tried to keep himself at arm’s length from this disaster, he had the tools to kick Prop. 39 into gear.  Kate Gordon, a close Steyer advisor who was described as his “secret weapon,” is a member of the Citizens Oversight Commission (the same commission that she even admits has never met.)

Steyer gave $1 million to California Democrats last year, which apparently buys him access to the state government letterhead. The day the story hit the press, Steyer joined the Senate President Pro Tem in issuing a statement critiquing AP’s story (that did not refute any of the facts of the story).

In the aftermath of this viral story, California and national newspapers with wide-ranging viewpoints on the political spectrum have opined in unison: voters deserve more accountability.

The Wall Street Journal said: “[Steyer’s] initiative may beat the 2009 Obama-Pelosi blowout as the country’s least effective jobs stimulus.”

The Los Angeles Times editorial board–which has never been mistaken as right-leaning–wrote: “…there is one aspect that so far has been a bust: oversight…No wonder there’s concern about where the money is going.”

The Washington Examiner said it best: “In short, Steyer has handed California a fat lemon….For the long term, Californians should be more skeptical and vote ‘no’ the next time political money-men come to them with big ideas of how government can create green jobs. Their state is now Exhibit A in the argument that it cannot.”

There’s no reason to believe anything Steyer has to say. He is now joined at the hip with Consumer Watchdog (which, conveniently, will not disclose the source of its funding) with plans for a new ballot measure about transparency in gas prices.

That’s right–the rich guy who supports policies to drive up energy costs (such as an oil severance tax, gas use restriction and the hidden gas tax) is worried about how much it costs you to fill up your tank. He doesn’t need a voter-approved initiative to figure out what’s behind higher gas prices–he needs a mirror!

Adding to Steyer’s hypocrisy is that although he claims to have divested from fossil fuels, he hasn’t divorced himself from making a profitRecent news reports show he’s a manager of green energy investment firms. That means he’s poised to make a buck by electing politicians that support the policies he’s pushing.  Not a bad return on his political investment, right?

In short, he’s a rich guy who can get richer promoting policies that make families struggle financially.

He’s rumored to be eyeing a run for Governor in 2018.  Surely, he’s rethinking that move after the media beating he’s taken this week.

It is worth mentioning that Steyer actually tried to push his flawed plan through the legislature prior to putting it on the ballot and misleading voters. Republican legislators had rejected his proposal.


Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor of Breitbart California. A longtime participant, observer and chronicler of California politics, Jon is also the publisher at His column appears weekly on this page. You can reach Jon at