Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Spending $100 Million to Save the Planet is a Bad Thing for 'Sugar Daddy' Politics

Don’t believe Tom Steyer and his liberal Super Pac’s push for climate change: donor-doers aren’t doing democracy any good

(Photo: The Washington Post / file)
Billionaire Tom Steyer has vowed $100 million to put climate change on the front burner this election season, but does that money--despite good intentions--merely reveal how uneven and absurd our democracy has become? Move over, Koch brothers. Clear some room, Sheldon Adelson and George Soros. There’s a new billionaire activist on the block. His name is Tom Steyer, and he’s a former hedge fund guru turned environmental activist who believes that, like the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, combating man-made climate change is the challenge of our time, “the issue we’ll get measured by as a country and a generation”.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Steyer, who is worth an estimated $1.5bn, plans to spend $100m (or more) during the 2014 US midterm elections. And he plans to spend all of it demanding that state and federal legislators take action to slow the rapid warming of the planet. It is by far the biggest single-person, single-issue commitment in the crooked recent history of campaign finance, and politicians who deny the science of climate change or block Steyer’s efforts can expect a blitz of negative ads from his organization. For the Republican Party, the 56-year-old Steyer is the next liberal bogeyman, the heir to Soros. For the environmental movement, he’s the new Daddy Warbucks.

Steyer, like many of his fellow liberal mega-donors, bemoans the political playing field left in the wake of Citizens United and other court decisions, in which an astronomically wealthy few people can freely raise and spend millions. Billions, even. But he refuses to sit on the sidelines, accepting – if not exactly embracing – the new game. If you’re a “dark money” reporter like me, you hear it all the time from the left: I hate Citizens United, but I’ll play by the rules until the rules change.

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