One name surfaces again and again in WikiLeaks’ email to expose the corrosive influence of the Greens’ “rich uncle,” hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer. The eye-opening leaks show a pattern of Steyer wielding his fortune to bend Democratic politics in pursuit of his personal green energy agenda.
Steyer is attempting to force costly and unreliable forms of energy upon Americans. While the San Francisco tycoon can afford to double or even triple energy rates for his six homes, lower- and middle-class families cannot. Household electricity bills run about 40 percent higher than the national average in California, thanks to policies championed by Steyer. In fact, 1 million Golden State households now live in “Green Energy Poverty,” paying 10 percent or more of their income on home energy costs alone.
“We believe that there is too much emphasis on money in politics,” Steyer declared in July. If his words sounded disingenuous then, the new disclosures confirm him to be the year’s most outrageous hypocrite.
Steyer boasts of his commitment to economic and racial justice, yet Politico reminds us this week that, as the hedge fund manager of Farrallon Capital Management, Steyer invested heavily in America’s largest private prison corporation. For-profit prisons have been roundly criticized for their treatment and over-representation of minorities and the economically disadvantaged. It’s already well known that Steyer invested in overseas coal production under appalling environmental conditions.
So we know how Steyer made his billions, but, thanks to WikiLeaks, we’re gaining a better understanding of how he uses his vast fortune to exert undue influence in Democratic circles.
In one leaked exchange, we learned that Democratic strategist John Podesta approached Steyer to sound out environmental group 350.org founder Bill McKibben “to organize Harvard student protests” against law school professor Laurence Tribe, who had been Obama’s mentor there and who recently challenged the EPA in court over the administration’s controversial Clean Power Plant rules.
Steyer, who had given at least $500,000 to the group, responded, “Will try. On it.” Whether the protest actually took place is uncertain, but what is clear is that Steyer was willing to use his influence to harass a person who dared to dispute administration policy.
In another email, the editor of ThinkProgress brags to Steyer about waging a campaign to discredit climate researcher Roger Pielke Jr., who, without challenging the validity of climate change, wrote an article for FiveThirtyEight questioning whether climate change was responsible for extreme weather events.
The editor boasts that, after his campaign to discredit Pielke, FiveThirtyEight refused to run additional articles by him. “Thanks for your support of this work,” the editor adds to Steyer.
A separate hacked email sheds more light. Steyer’s then-political adviser Chris Lehane wrote a memo to Podesta stating, “TS may have sent you this doc last night — but believe he may have sent a slightly earlier draft so please use this one.” The memo proposed that an “extreme weather SWAT team” be established as a context for pushing climate change talking points. The memo adds, “One cannot be handcuffed by data on a fundamental moral issue of this kind,” which may explain why Pielke’s piece was viewed as such a transgression.
An email by Podesta fretting, “Could be leaving a lot of $ on the table” in not offering Steyer a formal position in the Clinton campaign speaks to Steyer’s financial influence. While the leaked emails paint a picture, perhaps the clearest sign that it is Steyer who pays the Democrats’ piper and calls their tunes can be seen in the 2016 Democratic National Convention at which Steyer’s Super PAC NextGen Climate Action “Fact Sheet: Powering America With More Than 50 Percent Clean Energy by 2030” was adopted virtually verbatim into the Democratic Party platform. The fact that NextGen Climate donated $800,000 to the DNC to help cover convention costs can hardly be called a coincidence.
Steyer is responsible for nearly all the funds raised by NextGen Climate Action. The group spent $25 million to turn out green millennial voters in the 2016 general election. And Steyer himself, who said that he believes there’s too much emphasis on money in politics, has donated nearly $35 million to Democratic political candidates in this year’s election cycle.
Perhaps he didn’t mean that there’s too much of his own money distorting the political process. But that would be hypocritical.