With the 2019 Virginia elections in the rear-view mirror, Cindy and I have been looking ahead to 2020, including the Democratic campaigns for president. So far, Cindy and I have looked at Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Kamala Harris (now withdrawn from the race), Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former VP Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Cory Booker. Today, I’ll look at businessman Tom Steyer.
First off, since this is a Virginia-focused blog, it’s worth noting that Tom Steyer didn’t personally come and help campaign for Virginia Democrats in the days and weeks leading up to the election on 11/5/19. On the other hand, Steyer 2020 campaign staffers “took to the streets of Virginia [the weekend before the election], knocking on over 2,500 doors, doing their part to flip the General Assembly blue while Republicans struggle to hang on to a razor-thin majority.” And Steyer also announced in late June that he would be “pouring $1 million into efforts to register at least 12,000 millennial voters in Virginia, part of a broader push to deliver the General Assembly to Democrats in fall elections.” Also note that in 2019, Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action gave $155k to Virginia Democratic candidates, and Tom Steyer personally gave Virginia Democratic candidates $110k, on top of the NextGen America money. So thanks for all that help, and thanks to all the other 2020 Democratic candidates who helped out in Virginia as well!
Now, some background on Tom Steyer and his campaign for president.
- Steyer, who is 62 years old, is a “billionaire, hedge fund manager, philanthropist, environmentalist, liberal activist, and fundraiser” who announced on July 9, 2019 for president, saying he’d be willing to spend “$100 million of his own money on the race.”
- Steyer’s career includes working at Goldman Sachs (1983-1985) in mergers and acquisitions; partner at a San Francisco-based private equity firm; founder (in 1986) of Farallon Capital, a hedge fund where Steyer made his fortune “taking high risks on distressed assets within volatile markets”; leaving Farallon in 2012 “in order to focus on advocating for alternative energy.”
- Steyer has been criticized for not divesting himself more rapidly of his “carbon-polluting investments”; for the fact that “even after his highly public divestment, the coal-related projects his firm bankrolled will generate tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution for years, if not decades, to come”; and that coal mines “Farallon invested or to which it lent money during Mr. Steyer’s stewardship” have “increased their coal production by 70 million tons annually since receiving money from Farallon.”
- Steyer’s political involvement includes: supporting Hillary Clinton in 2008, then becoming “one of Barack Obama’s most prolific fundraiser.” Steyer also has been “a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 2004 and 2008”; “a member of the Hamilton Project and has been involved with the Democracy Alliance, a network of progressive donors whose membership in the group requires them to donate at least $200,000 a year to recommended organizations”; founder (in 2013) of “NextGen Climate (now NextGen America), an environmental advocacy nonprofit and political action committee”; and a supporter of Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for Virginia governor in 2013.
- Also worth noting: “Beginning in October 2017, Steyer spent approximately $10 million for a television ad campaign advocating the impeachment of President Donald Trump, and more on a digital ad campaign to call for Trump’s impeachment”
- As you can see from the following video, Steyer’s core message is that he is “running to end the corruption of our democracy by corporations and give more power to the American people.” Steyer adds, “If this is a banana republic with a few very very rich people and everybody else living in misery, that’s a failure.” Steyer blames the lack of progress on pretty much every major issue on “a big money interest for whom stopping progress, stopping justice is really important to their bottom line.” Steyer says he cares about “improving the world and handing it on to the next generation in a way so they can lead better lives than we’ve had…safer, more prosperous…more beautiful and creative.”
- Steyer has qualified for the December Democratic debate, after participating in the November and October debates. Steyer’s polling average on 12/13, per FiveThirtyEight.com, is 1.4%, and he’s generally been polling in the low single digits.
- According to AdAge, “The San Francisco hedge fund billionaire has burned through an astonishing $77.1 million on TV/radio ads (also including advance bookings), plus $14 million on Facebook ads to date,” allowing him to “[squeak] past the 4 percent national-polling threshold mandated by the Democratic National Committee, and has gotten campaign donations from at least 200,000 people.” Steyer trails only Michael Bloomberg in spending on this race: “This edition of Campaign Ad Scorecard originally appeared in the Dec. 9 print edition of Ad Age. Bloomberg and Steyer have since booked additional TV and radio ads, giving Bloomberg the lead with nearly $96.8 million and Steyer at No. 2, now with $83.6M (including Steyer’s Need to Impeach).”
- See below the video for more information on Steyer’s positions on the issues, ratings, etc.
- Steyer’s website calls for “structural reform” and lists plans for everything from Affordable Housing to Student Debt to National Public Service to Criminal Justice Reform to Civil Rights to Climate Change to Education to Health Care to…many more areas.
- On healthcare, Steyer says he “supports a universal health care system, including a strong public option that aggressively competes with the private insurance marketplace, drives down costs, and expands coverage.” According to this Politico article, “Steyer’s health care plan plants him among the centrists in the 2020 Democratic primary. He promises to expand access to health care through more Obamacare funding and a public option, while still envisioning a large role for private insurers — in contrast to the ‘Medicare for All’ plans proposed by rivals like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.”
- Greenpeace gives Steyer an “A-” grade on the climate crisis, ranking him third overall among 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, just behind Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. According to Greenpeace: “Steyer released a ‘Framework for a Justice-Centered Climate Plan’ to stop the expansion of fossil fuel extraction and implement a Green New Deal. He aims to mobilize the government to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2040 and reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. He’s pledged to stop oil and gas drilling on our public lands and end the buildout of new fossil fuel infrastructure while ensuring workers and communities can thrive in a renewable economy. He signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge. However, Steyer still has further to go to put forward a detailed plan to end the age of fossil fuels for good”
- On civil rights, Steyer “strongly supports legislation to establish a commission to re-examine the issue of reparations.”
- On criminal justice reform, Steyer says he “will work to end cash bail, reduce the prison population, stop the prison pipeline and revolving door, eliminate private prisons, restructure parole and probation, promote better-policing methods and training to reduce police brutality, exercise his clemency powers where appropriate, and increase resources for public defenders and community intervention programs.”
- On student debt, Steyer says he “will tackle the student debt crisis head-on by forgiving certain types of student loan debt, reforming the public service student loan forgiveness program, making the refinancing of student loans easier, cracking down on predatory student loan servicers, and expanding access to educational benefits through his New National Public Service Plan.”
- On women’s equality, Steyer says he “will fight for full reproductive justice, workplace policies including pay equity and paid family leave, and equal educational opportunities.”
- On ending gun violence, Steyer says he would “establish universal background checks, ban large-capacity magazines and assault weapons, enact red flag laws, close loopholes, create a new Office of Gun Safety and licensing requirements, and provide resources to communities to reduce gun violence.”
With that…what do you think about Tom Steyer’s 2020 candidacy? Are you one of the 1.4% of Democrats who currently say they support him? 😉 If so, why?