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Tom Steyer vs. the Koch Brothers: Let the Games Begin

RP Siegel | Monday May 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Tom SteyerIn one corner, weighing in at just over $100 billion, we have the heavy-weight Koch Brothers, with roots in the John Birch Society and untold billions vigorously applied in a continuing effort to try and shift the American political landscape strongly to the right. Reflecting their roots in their chemical and petroleum empire, to them environmental considerations are at best a back seat concern.

In the other corner, weighing in at $1.6 billion, is the welterweight Tom Steyer, hedge fund manager and crusader for liberal causes and the environment.

Steyer came out Thursday to announce the 2014 Strategic Plan for his superPAC, NextGen Climate. Specifically, Steyer wants to put climate change at the heart of the political conversation. In a press conference, Steyer said, “Our mission is to act politically to prevent climate disaster and to preserve American prosperity.”

He was clear that his team is playing to #winonclimate. “We will inevitably win on this because of the facts,” he said, “but we are trying to win faster because time is of the essence.”

The campaign will use climate as a wedge issue, to motivate voter turnout and show that being anti-science will hurt the candidates NextGen opposes, especially in cases (like the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial race) where “the connection between a candidate’s fossil fuel donors demonstrably conflict with the best interests” of his or her constituents.

The team has targeted seven states, highlighting specific campaigns within those states in which they will provide financial support and get-out-the-vote efforts in opposition to candidates that “deny basic science,” and are “anti-women and anti-immigrant.” These are as follows:

  • Florida: Governor’s race opposing Rick Scott
  • Iowa: U.S. Senate race  opposing Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs
  • New Hampshire: U.S. Senate race opposing Scott Brown
  • Colorado: U.S. Senate race opposing Cory Gardner
  • Pennsylvania: Governor’s race opposing Tom Corbett
  • Michigan: U.S. Senate race  opposing Terry Lynn Land
  • Maine: Governor’s race opposing Paul LePage.

In his brief remarks, Steyer said, “We are strong believers that climate is the challenge of our generation, and that we cannot wait, and that the problem is political. So, we are acting politically to try and resolve a difficult political dilemma. We distinguish ourselves from the people on the other side in a number of ways. One is that are not acting in our own economic self-interest, except in the sense that it would benefit every American. We are trying to do it as openly and transparently as possible. And we are trying to find campaigns in 2014 where we can take part and put climate on the ballot.”

The criteria that they are using requires “that there be substantial differences between the candidates on energy and climate in a given race. That there is an opportunity if we should win, for specific significant policy progress … and where there is a potential for longer term impact.”

Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic political strategist, has been hired to coordinate the effort.

Meanwhile, the Koch brothers SuperPAC, Americans for Prosperity, has targeted four Democratic senators: Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas that they consider vulnerable because of their support for climate change action.

I’m sure the local media outlets would love to see a head-to-head contest, with each side pouring in millions of dollars for ads, each side trying to outdo the other, but that is not in the cards at this time.

Image credit: EnergyActionCoalition: Flickr Creative Commons

RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He writes for numerous publications including Justmeans, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, and Energy Viewpoints. He and Roger Saillant co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining romp that is currently being adapted for the big screen. Now available on Kindle.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.


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  • Ray Del Colle

    “Climate change puts us at risk of extreme weather that costs hundreds of billions every year.” http://clmtr.lt/c/HHO0Y0cMJ