By Jason Stverak
Elections often bring out the worst in politicians, consultants and the media, but for the 2014 mid-terms, Tom Steyer takes the cake.
Steyer, mostly through his NextGen PAC, pumped $100 million into races, funding ads consistently panned as misleading.
Last February, “Sucker Punch — Keystone Truth” claimed that building Keystone XL pipleline only benefited China, not American workers. The Washington Post fact checker hung four Pinocchio’s and described the ad as “hard-hitting,” while relying on “jingoistic images.” While accurately saying China would invest $30 billion, the entire Asian stake in production is about one fourth of what the U.S. could receive.
Seven months later, NextGen unveiled ads hitting U.S. Rep Cory Gardner, R-Colo., fighting to unseat Democrat U.S. Sen. Mark Udall. While some mentioned climate change, others attacked Gardner on abortion. A NextGen spokesman added that Gardner would “interfere on women’s health issues to the point where he would have made abortion a felony.”
Steyer’s group also attacked Gardner for his position on same-sex marriag,e which, combined with climate change and abortion, create linked “proof points” banding together similar constituencies.
GREEN MONEY: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer made his pile by investing in coal, oil and gas.
Beyond inaccurate, Steyer’s 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.”
The heart of Steyer’s efforts remains his radical environmentalist pitch, which has fallen flat with most Americans and even many Democrats. Some question if Steyer even has deep environmentalist principles.
The Gardner campaign has repeatedly invoked connections between Steyer and past proposals to drain aquifers used by Colorado farmers. As recently as 2008, Steyer interests sold coal to China’s notoriously filthy power pants. The Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore points out that Steyer’s “political pay to play” could reap massive profits for his solar energy investments.
In short, Steyer is a flashier, wealthier, more radical, possibly erratic version of the same crony capitalists who line their pockets manipulating Washington. He just does it under the guise of environmentalism.
Jason Stverak is the president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.