By Jason Stverak | Watchdog.org
Last February, Tom Steyer and his radical NextGen Climate drew up their slate of candidates to support and to attack. Their original mission was to defeat candidates most likely to back oil, coal and natural gas. On that list, at least temporarily, was Democratic incumbent and oil energy supporter, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Steyer, one of this cycle’s most prolific donors, had considered running ads attacking Landrieu’s re-election bid similar to those slamming Joni Ernst in Iowa and Cory Gardner in Colorado. When asked about it, Landrieu said “it would probably help me in my state if he would run his ads.” At the time, others said such “dog whistle ads” would hurt Landrieu because they would mobilize environmentalists to abandon support for the Democrat.
PRIORITIES: Tom Steyer and NextGen Climate put winning above climate in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s re-election bid.
Louisiana depends heavily on oil extraction and refining. The proposed Keystone pipeline, target of Steyer’s relentless crusade, would also bring millions of investment and countless jobs to the state.
NextGen agreed the ads would hurt Landrieu and suspended the campaign. Steyer’s political adviser, Chris Lehane, admitted in a conference call that NextGen placed partisanship over environmentalist ideology.
He said “We do believe it’s really, really, really important from a climate perspective to maintain control of the Senate.”
If Democrats had retained control of the Senate, Landrieu would continue to head the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Landrieu’s campaign has had very little support from traditional liberal groups. Her pro-energy and anti-gay marriage positions resonate with Louisiana’s voters more than national Democrats.
Despite the lack of backing from issue groups, Landrieu did receive more traditional support from both Hillary Clinton and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
The lesson from the Senate race in Louisiana that should concern Steyer is that liberal groups refused to support Landrieu’s re-election, showing that activists have little tolerance for partisanship over ideology. It’s impossible to measure whether Steyer’s pulled slate of ads from Louisiana had any effect, or what might have happened if he ran them. The important takeaway is that Steyer and his advisers made a conscious political decision to not dislodge an incumbent who disagreed with NextGen over nearly every issue, but carried the magic “D” after her name.
Jason Stverak is president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity