Tom Steyer is going on the offensive against global warming deniers, and the hedge fund billionaire is putting a lot into the fight.
Steyer is backing an environmental advocacy group that's sinking $100 million into a campaign against Republicans who have denied or downplayed the effects of global warming. The money could be key in the fight for control of the U.S. Senate, experts believe.
The group is called NextGen Climate, which promotes itself as a counter to the oil and gas industry. It is also seen as an opponent for the deep-pocketed Koch brothers and their network of support for conservatives.
The group bills itself on its website as an advocate for those fighting climate change:
Founded by investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer in 2013, we act politically to avert climate disaster and preserve American prosperity. Working at every level, we are committed to supporting candidates, elected officials and policymakers across the country that will take bold action on climate change—and to exposing those who deny reality and cater to special interests.NextGen Climate has vowed to help Democratic Senate nominee Bruce Braley in Iowa, as well as Senate races in Michigan, New Hampshire, and Colorado.
"This is the year, in our view, that we are able to demonstrate that you can use climate, you can do it well, you can do it in a smart way, to win political races," said Chris Lehane, the longtime Democratic consultant advising Steyer.
Tom Steyer and NextGen Climate will be sitting out of many important races, however. Democratic candidates in key states such as Kentucky, North Carolina, and Alaska have voice support for the Keystone XL pipeline, offshore drilling, and the coal industry, earning their way off the funding list.
But Lehane thinks the group will gain traction against Republicans who are falling out of touch with the times.
"They are anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-science," he said. "It's a tough brand to win elections around."
Lehane promised ongoing support for candidates.
"We are not some super PAC that's going to come in, throw up some ads and leave," Lehane said. "You can come into these states and really run a total campaign."
But some have called Tom Steyer a hypocrite for his political efforts, noting that he made part of his fortune from fossil fuels including foreign coal investments. Others have pointed out that Steyer appears to be pumping millions of dollars into races Democrats are already expected to win.