Blue billionaires on top – By Kenneth P. Vogel 1/11/15 8:04 AM EST


Democrats spent much of the 2014 campaign castigating Republican big money, but, it turns out, their side actually finished ahead among the biggest donors of 2014 – at least among those whose contributions were disclosed.

The 100 biggest donors of 2014 gave nearly $174 million to Democrats, compared to more than $140 million to Republicans, according to a POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service.

Donors who gave mostly or exclusively to Democrats held down 52 of the top 100 spots, including that of the biggest by far – retired San Francisco hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $74 million helping Democratic candidates and groups.

Of course, that edge doesn’t take into account contributions to deep-pocketed non-profit groups that don’t disclose their donors. They heavily favored Republicans, with reports showing conservative secret money non-profits outspending liberal ones $127 million to $33 million. While that’s just a fraction of the overall undisclosed money spent in 2014, it’s indicative of a dramatic imbalance in a type of big money spending that likely would close the gap between Democratic and Republican top donors, if not put Republicans ahead.

(Also on POLITICO: Bush and Romney: Ready to rumble?)

For instance, the network of mostly secret-money non-profit groups helmed by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers was on pace to spend $290 million in 2014. Yet David and Charles Koch, who Democrats worked to vilifyas the very personifications of the corrupting effect of big money in politics, ranked as only the 10th and 29th biggest givers of disclosed cash in POLITICO’s analysis.

Nonetheless, the analysis suggests that rich liberals have gotten over any lingering qualms about writing huge checks to unlimited-money groups like those made legal under a pair of 2010 federal court decisions – including Citizens United vs. FEC – that liberals including President Barack Obama had blasted as undermining American democracy.

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Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/blue-billionaires-on-top-114151.html#ixzz3Ob5Fw6pw

The Hundred Rich People Who Run America – Mark McKinnon 01.05.15


Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty

A hundred ultra-wealthy liberal and conservative donors have taken over the political system. Do we have the guts to take it back?

We are well past the point that anyone will be shocked or even surprised by how distorted our system of funding campaigns has become, but thanks to some excellent reporting by Ken Vogel at Politico, we now have some interesting new perspective.

We have reached a tipping point where mega donors completely dominate the landscape. The 100 largest donors in the 2014 cycle gave almost as much money to candidates as the 4.75 million people who gave $200 or less (and certainly that number goes from “almost” to “more” if we could include contributions that are not required by law to be disclosed).

Think about this for a minute. This is consequential. It means that candidates running for office are genuflecting before an audience of 100 wealthy individuals to fuel their campaigns. So, whose bidding do we think these candidates are going to do? Is it any wonder that the interests of large corporations and unions get to the front of the line?

Liberal Democrats like to blow their bugles about how all the big money in politics comes from rich Republicans. Actually, as Vogel points out, 52 of the 100 top donors are Democrats, and the number one donor by far is Democrat Tom Steyer, who chipped in $74 million.

At least we’ve achieved some bipartisanship somewhere in our political ecosphere. Both parties are now equal opportunity offenders when it comes to gaming the system.

But I don’t fault Steyer or the Koch brothers for trying to exert their influence politics and public policy. They have strongly held beliefs and issues they care about deeply, and they are simply spending a lot of their money to try and change things in a direction they believe would be better. Nothing illegal or unethical about that.

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http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/05/the-hundred-rich-people-who-run-america.html

Steyer’s election millions can’t heat up voters on climate change – By Valerie Richardson -Updated: 10:02 p.m. on Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Billionaire Democratic fundraiser Tom Steyer. (Associated Press)

San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer has spent a staggering $76 million to promote climate change as a political issue in this year’s elections, but the subject isn’t exactly firing up the electorate.

Polls show voters continue to rank climate change at the bottom of their priority lists. Even in races featuring the “Steyer Seven,” the Democratic candidates selected by Mr. Steyer as the chief beneficiaries of his largesse, the issue is barely registering on the campaign trail.

Take the Senate race in New Hampshire. NextGen Climate Action, Mr. Steyer’s political action committee, has invested heavily in television advertising and the ground game on behalf of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, in her re-election bid against Republican Scott Brown.


SEE ALSO: Harry Reid silent as environmentalist Tom Steyer tries to ‘buy our democracy’


What impact has climate change had on the contest? “None,” said Andrew Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

“It’s not been an issue candidates have been talking about the in the Senaterace. It’s not in the kinds of questions that come up in the debates, and it’s certainly not one of the issues voters have told us are important or a serious problem,” Mr. Smith said.

Same with the Senate race in Michigan, where NextGen is supporting Rep. Gary C. Peters in his race against Republican Terri Lynn Land, a former Michigan secretary of state.


SEE ALSO: Patriots Foundation seeks details on Treasury meeting with Steyer


“There hasn’t really been a peep about it,” said political analyst Bill Ballenger, founder of Inside Michigan Politics. “I’ve seen no coverage of it in the media whatsoever, no mention of it.”

Mr. Ballenger noted that the Peters campaign did bring up climate change last week in a press release, but it didn’t have much impact.

“The Peters people put out a press-release blast against Terri Land for allegedly making disparaging comments about climate change and being a denier and all that sort of thing,” Mr. Ballenger said. “But again, the Peters people have put out attack press releases on so many issues every day, for weeks, that it just kind of gets lost in the shuffle.”

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Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/oct/29/tom-steyer-spends-76-million-fails-to-make-climate/#ixzz3HcDaGWMy

The Chairman of the Largest Private Company in America Just Told the 1 Percent to Worry About Climate Change – Robert S. Eshelman June 25, 2014


Greg Page

Gregory Page, Executive Chairman and former CEO of Cargill. (REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

The US economy could suffer damages running into the hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century due to climate change, according to a study released yesterday. The report, titled “Risky Business,” is the first comprehensive assessment of the economic risks of climate change to the United States. It was commissioned by a panel of influential business leaders and former government officials, including hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Bush administration Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

“I have had a fair amount of experience over my career in attempting to understand and manage risk,” said Paulson, alluding to the 2008 financial collapse. “In many ways the climate bubble is actually more cruel and more perverse.”

Among the study’s conclusions:

• By 2050, between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of coastal property will likely be below sea level, rising to $238 billion to $507 billion by 2100.

• Extreme storms and hurricanes will likely cause damages exceeding $42 billion annually along the eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast.

• Labor productivity, of outdoor workers, such as in construction, utility maintenance, landscaping and agricultureparticularly in the Southeast, could shrink by as much as 3 percent due to the projected number of days with temperatures topping 95 degrees.

• Agricultural yields could plummet by as much as 70 percent due to extreme heat waves.

The general outlines of the impacts of climate change on the United States have been detailed in series of reports released this year by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences.

The novelty of the “Risky Business” report, however, is in its detailed assessment of the consequences of climate change on specific economic sectors and by region.

If there is a simple takeway offered by co-chairs Paulson, Bloomberg and Steyer, it’s that the cost of inaction over the long term greatly exceeds the cost of curbing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change in the short term.

“If we act quickly we can avoid the very worst outcomes,” said Paulson during a New York City press conference.

It’s a message that has begun to gain traction among corporate elites, like Greg Page, executive chairman and former CEO of Cargill, Inc., who participated in the high-level “Risk Committee” that developed the scope of the report and approved its findings.

Cargill is the largest privately held company in the United States, and its political contributions skew heavily—about 4 to 1—in favor of Republican members of Congress, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

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http://www.thenation.com/article/180420/chairman-largest-private-company-america-just-told-1-percent-worry-about-climate-chan

Meet the Hedge Fund Millionaire Trying to Turn the Hamptons Republican—By Molly Redden | Thu Jun. 19, 2014 6:00 AM EDT


After his handpicked candidate flopped in 2012, megadonor Robert Mercer is spending big on a do-over.

In 2012, Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund manager who has plowed millions of dollars into right-wing causes, took on a new project: defeating Southampton Democrat Rep. Timothy Bishop. Mercer seeded a super-PAC that supported Bishop’s GOP challenger with $500,000. By Election Day, Mercer had given the group nearly $1 million. Bishop ultimately won the race. But that hasn’t deterred the hedge fund mogul from taking a mulligan. He recently poured $200,000 into a new super-PAC that’s targeting Bishop in 2014.

Mercer’s largesse is an example of the tactics megadonors are free to pursue now that the Supreme Court has obliterated campaign finance limits. “I think this is more and more going to be the model,” says Saul Anuzis, the former chair of the Michigan GOP and the founder of the super-PAC Mercer is financing, the US Jobs Council. “You’ll find more and more super-PACs starting that are donor-centric or district-centric.” He likened Mercer to Tom Steyer, the Democratic megadonor who has vowed to support candidates who support specific policies to fight climate change.

Anuzis formed the US Jobs Council early this year and then approached Mercer, knowing he had spent big in New York’s 1st Congressional District during the previous election cycle. (He has a reputation for lavishness in his personal life, too. In addition to purchasing a superyacht he christened the Sea Owl, Mercer spent more than $2 million constructing a model railroad in his Long Island mansion—then sued the builder for overcharging him.) Mercer donated $200,000 to the group on April 22—another donor gave a scant $10,000—and the following month the super-PAC kicked off a $199,000 outreach and ad campaign in the two-way GOP primary that will decide Bishop’s challenger. The plan is for the US Jobs Council to keep spending in the race past the June 24 primary, Anuzis says, and get involved in one or two other congressional races.

Article continues:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/robert-mercer-timothy-bishop-hamptons

GOP sees Kochs, raises Steyer – By Alexander Bolton – 05/08/14 06:00 AM EDT


Republicans are turning the tables on Democrats by attacking a hedge-fund magnate who has pledged a $100 million campaign to address climate change in the 2014 election.

By highlighting billionaire Tom Steyer and his political activity, the GOP is taking a page out of the playbook of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). For the last several months, Reid has repeatedly lambasted Charles and David Koch, wealthy conservative donors who Democrats believe can be election-year bogeymen.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) released a memo on Wednesday that accused Senate Democrats of blocking the Keystone XL pipeline because of Steyer’s promise to spend heavily on political races this fall. Democrats scoff at that assertion, saying they offered Republicans a Keystone vote, but the GOP can’t take “yes” for an answer.

The RNC memo painted Steyer as a hypocrite for touting the harmful effects of carbon emissions, despite the fact that he made money off a fund invested heavily in oil and gas companies, including a Keystone competitor.

“Those who support Steyer’s extremist views say they’re doing so for environmental reasons. But do they know where Steyer earned his money? For over 20 years, Steyer managed Farallon Capital Management, which invested heavily in oil and gas companies, including a competitor with the Keystone XL pipeline,” the RNC stated.

The document pointed out that Steyer reportedly invested in Nexen, a company that runs major oil sands extraction projects in Canada, as well as in a coal plant in Indonesia.

Suzanne Henkels, a spokeswoman for Steyer, said Republican and Koch brothers-funded attacks have only elevated the message that climate change needs to be solved.

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 Read more: http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/205546-gop-sees-kochs-raises-steyer#ixzz317Z3ZMft  Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

The left’s secret club – By KENNETH P. VOGEL | 4/24/14 5:00 AM EDT


From top left, clockwise: Tom Steyer, Valerie Jarrett, Alison Lundergan Grimes, Bill de Blasio, David Axelrod and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are shown in this composite. | AP Photos

Democracy Alliance conferences are typically kept hush-hush. | AP Photos

Some of the country’s biggest Democratic donors — including Tom Steyer and Jonathan Soros — are huddling behind closed doors next week in Chicago with union bigwigs and progressive superstars like Bill de Blasio to plan how to pull their party — and the country — to the left.

The setting is the annual spring meeting of the Democracy Alliance, a secretive club of wealthy liberals that’s the closest thing the left has to the vauntedKoch brothers’ political network.

The DA, as the liberal group is known to insiders, is increasing its ranks of rich donors for the first time in years and is gearing up to spend huge sums on political data, voter registration, ground organizing and advertising to influence the 2014 midterms and 2016 presidential elections. Potentially more significant, the groups’ donors also could play an important role in determining whether the post-Barack Obama Democratic Party embraces therising tide of progressive populism or hews to a more cautious, centrist course — in other words, whether the Hillary Clinton wing or Elizabeth Warren wing will seize the reins.

(PHOTOS: 10 tough Senate races for Democrats)

The Spring Investment Conference will feature a number of Clinton allies and others associated with the centrist wing — including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes and Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. But the conference — which kicks off Sunday night at a Ritz Carlton ballroom with a dinner keynoted by de Blasio — is also seen as a coming out party of sorts for the group’s progressives, who have expressed some measure of dissatisfaction with what they see as a level of timidity on their pet issues from the Obama White House.

According to a conference agenda obtained by POLITICO, panels will focus on elevating progressive issues like income inequality, climate change, drug reform, gun control, abortion rights and the death penalty.

It’s not all serious business, though. Social events include a wine party featuring selections from wineries owned by DA donors, a private curator-led tour of the Art Institute of Chicago and a performance by “The Daily Show” co-creator Lizz Winstead, who the agenda says will deploy her “comedic genius” to take a “light-hearted look at the conservative Right and the decay of the Fourth Estate.”

DA conferences are typically kept hush-hush, with locations tightly held, press barred from the sessions and participants prohibited from discussing the proceedings.

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Big-Money Donors Demand Larger Say in Party Strategy – By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE MARCH 1, 2014


Tom Steyer, a billionaire, is raising a $100 million political fund with other environmentalists. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

The Republican donors who have financed the party’s vast outside-spending machine are turning against the consultants and political strategists they once lavished with hundreds of millions of dollars.

In recent months, they have begun holding back checks from Republican “super PACs” like American Crossroads, unsatisfied with the groups’ explanations for their failure to unseat President Obama or win back the Senate. Others, less willing than in the past to defer to the party elders and former congressional staff members who control the biggest groups, are demanding a bigger voice in creating strategy in exchange for their continued support.

Donors like Paul Singer, the billionaire Republican investor, have expanded their in-house political shops, building teams of loyal advisers and researchers to guide and coordinate their giving. And some of the biggest contributors to Republican outside groups in 2012 are now gravitating toward the more donor-centric political and philanthropic network overseen by Charles and David Koch, who have wooed them in part by promising more accountability over how money is spent.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/02/us/politics/big-money-donors-demand-larger-say-in-party-strategy.html?smid=tw-share&_r=1

Climate billionaire aims to set stage for 2016 – By DARREN GOODE | 2/18/14 6:07 PM EST


California billionaire Tom Steyer turned heads in Washington with the news that he plans to spend $100 million to help make climate change a defining issue in this year’s elections.Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at Feb 18, 2014 11.16

But it gets even bigger: The hedge fund executive turned green activist might be willing to lay out even more than that eye-popping number, and he’s looking to spend it in places that are also important for 2016.

Steyer’s strategy calls for targeting races including Senate or gubernatorial contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and possibly Pennsylvania — all key battlegrounds in presidential politics, sources familiar with the plan told POLITICO on Tuesday.

(POLITICO Exclusive: Mega-donors plan GOP war council)

The fleshed-out details paint a picture of a big-pocketed donor who is going beyond his early efforts to help individual Democrats, such as Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, as well as address specific issues like the Keystone XL pipeline — and instead wants to give his signature climate cause a starring role in the next presidential race.

Steyer’s operation “is going to be very aggressive” and will set itself apart from the efforts of mainstream environmental groups, said Betsy Taylor, a Takoma Park, Md.-based leader of a network of wealthy climate donors who attended a recent discussion of the strategy at the billionaire’s California ranch. “They’re fearless. They don’t worry about access to Democratic Party leadership.”

Steyer isn’t publicly saying much about how he’ll spend of his projected campaign war chest through his NextGen Climate Action super PAC, which The New York Times first reported Monday. The strategy could make him a progressive counterweight to big conservative donors like Charles and David Koch. But it’s unclear how far even $100 million will go in the post-Citizens United world, or whether global warming can compete on the presidential campaign trail with issues like jobs and President Barack Obama’s health care law.

(Also on POLITICO: Rand Paul’s Republican revolution)

Still, Steyer has told potential backers he has big plans. Those include trying to influence the debate about climate change in Senate races in Iowa and New Hampshire and the gubernatorial contest in Florida.

He may also spend money influencing the governor’s race in Pennsylvania, where one of the Democrats vying to unseat Republican incumbent Tom Corbett is former Bill Clinton environmental aide Katie McGinty.

In addition to looking ahead to 2016, Steyer’s strategy includes focusing on states where a candidate who supports acting on climate change faces an opponent who’s a “denier.”

That description matches the governor’s race in Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s top challenger is Democratic former Gov. Charlie Crist, and the Senate race in Iowa, where Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and several potential Republican challengers are vying to replace retiring Democrat Tom Harkin.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/02/tom-steyer-political-spending-103636.html#ixzz2tkYtgLp9

Tom Steyer may be liberals’ answer to the Koch brothers – By Evan Halper December 21, 2013, 6:21 p.m.


The California billionaire is building a vast political network and inserting himself into elections nationwide, with a focus on fossil fuels and global warming.

Liberal billionaire Tom SteyerTom Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, is spending some of his fortune on liberal and environmental issues like fighting the Keystone XL pipeline. (David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / December 4, 2013)
Tom Steyer is standing upright near the corner of a small, beige meeting room at Georgetown University, arms at his sides, eyes shut intently. Half a dozen ministers and priests surround him, laying hands on his torso.

Together, the pastors begin to pray, asking for divine help in shaping public opinion: “Soften them…. Open them to you … for your purpose…. Claim the promise made to Moses.”

It is a curious warmup for a technical conference about an oil pipeline.

But like many other environmentalists concerned that America is dawdling as the world burns, these ministers, each a leader in efforts to mobilize churchgoers against climate change, see Steyer as, quite literally, a godsend.

Heady stuff, even for a 56-year-old billionaire.

For years, liberals have fretted about the power of ultrawealthy people determined to use their billions to advance their political views. Charles and David Koch, in particular, have ranked high in the demonology of the American left.

But in Steyer, liberals have a billionaire on their side. Like the Kochs, he is building a vast political network and seizing opportunities provided by loose campaign finance rules to insert himself into elections nationwide. In direct contrast to them, he has made opposition to fossil fuels and the campaign against global warming the center of his activism.

The former financier is an unlikely green icon. 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 went into companies he now says are destroying the planet. Adversaries and, in private, at least some erstwhile allies call him a dilettante.

Yet, unlike many others in a parade of super-rich Californians who have made forays into politics, Steyer has proved himself skilled at bringing attention to his cause and himself.

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-steyer-20131222,0,6539543.story#ixzz2oCdTGVyT

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