Crank of the Week – July 18, 2014 – Tom Steyer

Billionaire hedge fund manager turned environmental activist Tom Steyer garnered a lot of attention by the left leaning media when he announced he would put up $100 million to defeat political candidates who were global warming deniers. Half of the climate alarmist war chest would be his own money and he vowed to raise the other $50 million from other, like minded citizens. But poor Tom is discovering that trying to buy friends and popularity among the left coast eco-progressive elites doesn't work that well when you started out investing in the evil, hydrocarbon based companies you now decry.

Tom Steyer built a fortune with a hedge fund he founded in 1986 but is now focused full-time on the environment and associated politics. After selling his stake in his Farallon Capital hedge fund in late 2012, he gathered liberal political donors at his ranch south of San Francisco to announce that he plans to spend $50 million to back select Democrats in this year's elections. Now, according to Politico, Steyer is falling far short on his pledge to raise $50 million in outside money to make climate change a midterm-election weapon against the GOP.

His super PAC, NextGen Climate Action, has raised just $1.2 million from other donors toward that goal, according to still-unreleased figures that his aides shared with POLITICO. And he appears to be struggling to woo wealthy allies in his effort to compete with big-money conservative donors — leading some supporters to question whether his fundraising goal is realistic.

Since giving up his one-percenter lifestyle, his efforts to buy liberal respectability have been impressive. According to Forbes, He spent $11 million to support the election of Terry McAuliffe as governor of Virginia in 2013, and has been involved with several environmental measures on the California ballot over the past several years. Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, were among the first to sign the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge in 2010, and have donated tens of millions of dollars to alma maters Stanford and Yale for “advanced energy” research. In 2004, they created a foundation to start a community bank, One Pacific Coast Bank, and have so far spent $50 million to fund it.

Steyer has become one of the most vocal opponents of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. He vows to help defeat political candidates who oppose implementing energy taxes. His goal is to save the world by crippling the American economy. What better way to earn some progressive street cred than to attack the economic system that made him is $1.6 billion fortune. At a fundraiser earlier this year, former vice president and climate activist Al Gore dubbed Steyer “Mr. Tipping Point.” Gore meant that Steyer (or, perhaps, his money) could tilt the climate change fight and instigate decisive action in order to, “win quickly enough to make a difference.” But adulation from fellow global warming fanatics aside, things aren't going so well for the leftist social climber.

It was recently reported that his hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management LLC, used the same tax avoidance techniques for which Republican nominee Mitt Romney was lambasted by the Democrats in the 2012 presidential campaign. As Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment, a free market public policy group, told the Washington Times, this smacks of hypocrisy. There is no doubt on which side of the political divide Steyer comes down on. In fact, Steyer has effectively purchased Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) by donating $5 million to Senate Majority PAC, the pro-Democratic Super PAC run by former Reid aides, making him the single largest contributor to the group.

“To me, the most astonishing aspect of this is the Democrats’ reliance on this guy. While Harry Reid is on the floor of the Senate lambasting out-of-state billionaires for funding political activities, he has no problem using their money when it comes to his purposes. There’s a totally absurd disconnect,” said Kerpen, who also has written on Mr. Steyer’s business dealings. “They’re criticizing the use of dark money, but Steyer’s money is about as dark as it comes.”


Steyer bought Harry Reid with a $5 million donation.

The New York Times revealed a large portion of Steyer's fortune came from Big Coal. During its period under Steyer's stewardship, Farallon invested in or lent money to coal-mining companies from Indonesia to China which increased their annual production by about 70 million tons. This is more than the amount of coal consumed annually by Britain. But that's all behind him now, protests the capitalist turned environmentalist—he's got that old green religion.

A look at Steyer’s website displays the full panoply of San Francisco liberalism, including tax increases and the claim that climate change “ranks right up there” with “terrorism, epidemics, poverty, [and] the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” Not surprisingly, Steyer sees himself as a newly canonized green saint, forsaking his evil ways and leaving his old, sinful life in business behind. As he tells it, learning about global warming caused him to change his approach to life.

“My version of a Paul on the Road to Damascus conversion on the issue was the result of continuing to learn more about the devastating impacts of climate change and as the scientific evidence became clearer, I realized I could no longer remain at my company — not when it meant supporting investments in the fossil fuel industry,” Mr. Steyer wrote June 25.

A fawning piece in SFGate describes the green convert this way:

Tom Steyer uses a blue ballpoint pen to draw the sign of the cross on his left hand every day. He drives an old Honda hybrid, wears wool plaid ties and prefers camping to the Four Seasons. As he says, “One of the things that's true in this world is you can really only eat three meals a day and wear one pair of pants and shirt at a time.”

Possibly turned off by Steyer's murky past as a financial beneficiary of Big Coal, those liberal billionaires Tom was hoping to suck up to have proven reluctant when asked to donate to his political slush fund. The world's stubborn ongoing failure to show any sign of global warming since 1997 might also be playing a part in Steyer's failure to launch.

There is an old joke that goes, “he was so ugly as a baby we had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him.” It seems that Saint Tom's $50 million pork chop isn't enticing enough to win him any money donating new friends from among the left coast intelligentsia. So, for proving that money and political correctness can't buy love or respect among progressive eco-wackos, this Crank of the Week is for you: Tom Steyer.