Tom Steyer Accused of Buying Black Support in South Carolina

Tom Steyer MLK (Meg Kinnard / Associated Press)
Meg Kinnard / Associated Press

Billionaire left-wing donor Tom Steyer is being accused, once again, of buying support — this time, among African Americans in South Carolina.

Steyer has spent heavily in South Carolina in general to boost his support, taking advantage of the fact that only former Vice President Joe Biden had significant name recognition in the state. CNN reported last month that Steyer accounted for over 90% of television ad spending in the Palmetto state.

In addition, however, Steyer is targeting African American voters, who are the majority of the Democratic Party primary electorate in the state.

Moreover, Steyer is spending money on black organizations and politicians, directly and indirectly.

Over the weekend, Politico reported:

Tom Steyer is pumping money into black organizations in South Carolina and other early voting states, seeking every possible foothold with the Democratic Party’s most coveted voting bloc.

Hidden amid millions of dollars spent on TV ads and mailers in Steyer’s latest campaign finance report are donations totaling more than $60,000 to black organizations and institutions across the country. They include $10,000 to the Columbia, S.C. chapter of the Urban League; $7,500 to an African American cultural festival in Iowa; and another $10,000 to the Charlotte, N.C. black political caucus.

On Monday, the New York Times reported that Steyer had paid over $40,000 in “commercial rent payments to a company owned by Jennifer Clyburn Reed, a daughter of James E. Clyburn, the longtime Democratic congressman whose endorsement is considered a seal of approval for candidates hoping to win the state’s critical African-American vote.”

Clyburn, the House Majority Whip, criticized one of Steyer’s rivals, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on Sunday, saying that his “socialist” beliefs alienated voters.

The Times notes that both Steyer and Sanders have “placed influential black lawmakers on their campaign payrolls as advisers.”

But Steyer’s effort seems to go much further. In one case, the Times notes, Steyer and his wife helped rescue “Optus Bank, a majority-black-owned bank in Columbia.”

One former Democratic Party official quoted by the Times called Steyer’s spending “unproductive and not OK,” saying it looked like payoffs.

On Sunday, during an interview with CBS News’ Face the Nation, Biden blamed Steyer’s spending for his declining support among African American voters in South Carolina, once seen as a solid bloc for his campaign.

Last year, a Steyer aide resigned after being accused of offering to pay politicians in Iowa to endorse Steyer for president.

Steyer has been third in recent polls of Democratic Party primary voters in South Carolina.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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