By Jason Stverak
While Harry Reid has no hesitation to attack wealthy conservative donors on the Senate floor, he hasn’t spoken much about billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer.
Steyer, a climate-change activist who made billions selling coal to China’s notoriously dirty power plants,has been long celebrated as the Democratic Party’s go-to donor on environmental issues.
A new Watchdog.org report shows that last February, Steyer met with fellow progressive mogul George Soros and a top Obama aide at the White House. After this meeting, nearly $100 million flowed, mostly to boost liberal U.S. Senate candidates Gary Peters of Michigan, Bruce Braley of Iowa, Mark Udall of Colorado and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Shaheen and Udall, both incumbents, were also in attendance.
SECRET MEETING: Tom Steyer met with fellow progressive mogul George Soros and top Obama aide at the White House in February.
While talking politics at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is inescapable, talking fundraising is forbidden under the law. That particular combination of individuals strongly points to the possibility of just such illegal activity.
The plan to bankroll liberal candidates while dragging the rest of the Democratic Party into an environmental crusade backfired and divided the party. Steyer envisioned not only Democratic victories, but tight regulations on natural gas and coal that would benefit his personal green-energy investments. Measures such as cap and trade, however, have been political nonstarters since 2009.
Meanwhile, other prominent Democrats refused to play ball with the environmentalists.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, both Democrats with higher ambitions, positively beamed last summer as they announced their states’ support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The project will adds billions to the two states’ economies and underscores the fact that traditional labor still has regional sway over Steyer’s billions. McAuliffe had received around $900,000 in total campaign contributions from Steyer.
Steyer’s money-funded ads have struck experts and the public alike as strange. According to one expert, “These ads yell at people (and) they’re not believable. They’re not going to create a relationship between the viewer and the ad.”
While Democrats have tried to use Koch money as a bludgeon against Republicans, their own billionaires divided their party, backed bad candidates and produced bizarre messages. Not a recipe for victory at all.
Jason Stverak is the president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.