Anti-Koch Billionaire Tom Steyer Wants Rick Scott Out

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: February 22, 2014 3:55 AM
Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer

Enter, another major player in the 2014 Florida gubernatorial race -- California hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer, committed soldier in the political war against climate change and apparently Rick Scott.

Steyer, from his San Francisco office earlier this week, lifted the phone and summoned an impressive string of national reporters for a conference call. Just like that he had the nation's top journalists at his fingertips. Main purpose? Apparently to deliver a message to Scott:

You've got $100 million, I've got $100 million. I'm going to get you in November.

I tried to reach Steyer on Friday through the communications staff at his political organization, NextGen Climate Action, to find out why in particular he would go gunning for Scott -- a governor, not a senator -- who gets to influence only one of 50 states, and who focuses 24/7 on the economy and jobs, not science or climate. Nor, to my knowledge, does Scott oppose entrepreneurial renewable energy -- particularly because it means jobs.

Media folks keep writing it's because Scott disparages science, claims it hasn't proven the climate change is man-made. And, of course, because the Florida governor isn't screaming bloody murder about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Personally, I can't remember the last time he talked about any of those things, but what do I know? I wish I could say for sure what Steyer's problem is with Scott. I have a feeling it's more about politics and power than the oceans swallowing us up on Scott's watch. The point is, Steyer's office never got back to me so I don't know for sure.

My best guess is, I think Steyer likes being cast as the emerging liberal counterweight to the Koch brothers.

He wants to be like the Kochs, which is why he's building a vast political network same as they did, and seizing opportunities provided by loose campaign finance rules to insert himself into elections nationwide, also same as they did. But like all liberals and especially enviros, he paints himself seated on the right hand of God, and the Kochs -- who are pushing hard for the oil pipeline -- as the demonic symbol of the American right.

I don't believe Steyer is a phony.  That is, he certainly hasn't found religion in the same way, say, Charlie Crist found it. Like so many of the ultra-rich, he does want to make a difference in the world, and he believes fighting adherence to fossil fuels is the way to do it.

But Steyer, 56, is new to this religion. He didn't back away from finance until 2012, so, like it or not, he harbors a world of hypocrisy. Steyer built his fortune with a San Francisco-based hedge fund of the sort that drove protesters to occupy Wall Street. Some of the investments that landed him on the Forbes list of America's wealthiest (he's at $1.5 billion) went into companies he now says are destroying the planet. Adversaries, and it's said in private at least some allies, call him a dilettante. 

Steyer's spokesman confirmed that his energy portfolio is being divested and he will avoid backing tar sands or coal investments. He has shifted his focus to promoting his clean energy agenda full-time.

Steyer shocked many liberals when he embraced the political toolbox opened to wealthy donors and other interests in the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the one that made it easier for businesses, unions and the rich to throw unlimited money at elections whenever and wherever.

Steyer said this: “We have a democratic system, there are parts we would want to reform or change, and Citizens United is prominent in that. But we’ve accepted the world as it is.”

David and Charles Koch

Oil billionaires David and Charles Koch

Well, so have the Kochs. There's not much difference between them and Steyer now -- except how much money each is prepared to kick in.

By far the largest contributor to the climate-change denialists isn't the Kochs, says Greenpeace, it's Donors Capital and Donors Trust, two groups that route millions from a generic townhouse in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1 million or more.

The Kochs have broad goals for assessing how they will distribute their largesse. They promote liberty, understood to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.

When it comes to blocking action on the climate crisis, the obscure charity in the suburbs is outspending the brothers 6-1.

It's the need to influence an election in Florida, some 3,000 miles from his home territory -- all for the good of the planet in a year when Sunshine State voters have said their primary 2014 issue is the economy -- that 's the thing that needs to be better explained. Does Steyer just want to show money wins? Does he like playing Florida because the nation is watching? 

What's so odd is that in 2010, Steyer donated $2.5 million and pledged to contribute $2.5 million more to defeat Proposition 23. Prop 23 would have frozen environmental legislation already on the books in California. Steyer reportedly only got involved because he was "peeved" out-of-state activists were backing it.

Now the tables are turned and guess what? Steyer is the out-of-state activist.

Liberals have long cursed the power of ultra-wealthy people determined to use their billions to advance their political views. With Tom Steyer buying his brand of government -- and using bigger bucks even than Charles and David Koch to do it (see the graphic below) --  their whines won't have quite the same edge.

climate change denial chart

 Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments (14)

2:32PM FEB 24TH 2014
Oh, these rich people and their money! I remember when Norton Simon was running for office in California. (I was thinking it was for Governor, but according to Wikipedia, he ran for U.S. Senator, against George Murphy.) Mr. Simon's campaign spent so heavily on advertising, that, if you listened to the radio, you would hear the name "Norton Simon" every 10 minutes! But, in spite of all that, he still lost.
11:36AM FEB 24TH 2014
Do you remember when ManBearPig, aka Al Gore, in 2007 proclaimed that in 2014 all of the polar ice caps would have melted....just saying..
10:52AM FEB 24TH 2014
via RedState

Union bosses are reportedly planning to spend $300 million of their members’ money to eliminate five Republican governors during in the 2014 elections.

While union bosses have not released a prioritized list, if they had a list prioritizing which governors are higher in their hit list, it would probably look like this:

Scott Walker (Wisconsin)–While Walker’s Act 10 has done well for Wisconsin’s budget, by most accounts, Walker is highest on the unions’ hit list.

Rick Snyder (Michigan)–In 2012, UAW boss Bob King and other unions pushed a overly broad pro-union ballot initiative called Proposal 2 that would have solidified union power in the state’s constitution. When voters soundly rejected it 58-42%, Governor Snyder responded with making Michigan the nation’s 24th Right-to-Work state. Since giving workers the choice whether or not to pay union dues or fees is as anathema to unions as the plague, unions have vowed their revenge.

John Kasich (Ohio)–Though Kasich has been largely neutered since his attempt at reforming Ohio’s collective bargaining laws were repealed by Ohio voters a few years ago, Ohio is a swing state and, with 2016 right around the corner, having the state in Democrat hands will come in handy for Hillary.
Tom Corbett (Pennsylvania)–Though not as high profile as Wisconsin’s Walker, the Keystone State’s Corbett has been nibbling at union power with trying to privatize the state-controlled (and unionized) liquor stores. In addition, with an effort underway to curb unions’ ability to deduct union dues for politics from public-sector employees, both public and private-sector unions across the state are in an uproar.

Rick Scott (Florida) — While Rick Scott has been angering unions with what union bosses refer to as “union busting,” the state itself is a Right-to-Work state and, with only 5.8 percent of the Florida workforce in unions, unions do not have a lot of power in the state. However, like Kasich above, union bosses are likely looking ahead to 2016 and want a friend in power in case there is a need for an election-night recount.

Whether or not the unions actually succeed in eliminating any of their targets can mean a sea change in the public policy debate and all it takes is one for union bosses to declare victory.

“Truth isn’t mean. It’s truth.”
Andrew Breitbart (1969-2012)
Roger Bennett
10:08PM FEB 22ND 2014
Just when I think the "sunshine state news" can't stick its head into any darker realm of denial and ignorance, I read another supposed "news" article masquerading as news when in fact its a propaganda release. Corruption is the life blood of the climate change deniers, and Mr. Scott is a corrupt man with a track record to prove it. No speculation required.
10:53AM FEB 24TH 2014
Please name me one instance where our Governor has been 'corrupt'. Climate change is a made up 'science' to make a few very wealthy.
9:37PM FEB 23RD 2014

While there are meds to calm you, stupidity and cult worship is usually acute and fatal in the end. Real corruption is claiming a high moral ground with zero supporting evidence. If you see corruption everywhere, perhaps you should avoid mirrors.
Gregg Mundy
6:10PM FEB 22ND 2014
Sounds like another Obama to me. He's got "NO" business in Florida. Let him stay in California with all the fruits and nuts!!
3:39PM FEB 22ND 2014
Get ready for another record-breaking spending election. With his money & Morgan's money to spend, watch out!
John Paul Jones
1:42PM FEB 22ND 2014
Typical progressive. Manipulating the low-information ideological believers so he can get even more wealthy off of climate legislation. Al Gore anyone? Although this guy better be careful. Crist belongs to John Morgan, and Morgan may not want to share.
Richard Riker
12:50PM FEB 22ND 2014
Goes to prove even billionaires can be dumb. Attempting to influence politics in another state is the ultimate arrogant act.
10:29AM FEB 22ND 2014
A fool and his money...Mr. Steyer, your money will not buy a thinking person's vote.
10:53AM FEB 22ND 2014
Gee . . . then I guess it will buy the non-thinking person's vote. . . . . . which means that Scott's re-election is doomed . . . . . . as that's where most of his political support currently seems to originate from . . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
8:35AM FEB 22ND 2014
I guess,,,my best guess,,,,,,lame
8:34AM FEB 22ND 2014
Is this a news report or your personal op,,,,nancy your nothing but a fgop shill,,,,,,,journalism ,,,ha

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