2020 Presidential Profiles

Published — July 9, 2019

9 things to know about Tom Steyer

(Wikimedia Commons)

Democratic megadonor and leader of ‘Need to Impeach’ Trump effort announces presidential bid.

Introduction

Tom Steyer, a hedge-fund-manager-turned-environmentalist who has bankrolled Democratic campaigns and organizations to the tune of at least $237 million over the past three election cycles, has decided to cash in his clout.

In January, Steyer said he wouldn’t run for president. Today, Steyer reversed course and officially announced his plans to run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. 

Steyer, who lives in California and runs the NextGen America environmental nonprofit and Need to Impeach super PAC, is the closest thing Democrats have to the Republican-backing Koch brothers — at least in terms of financial largesse. And Steyer has positioned himself as the foil-in-chief for President Donald Trump, aggressively calling for his impeachment when many other Democrats have shied away from doing do.

As Steyer prepares for the campaign trail, here are nine things to know about his personal and political finances:

  • Steyer and his wife, Kathryn, were the third most generous donors during the 2017-2018 election cycle, behind only Republican-backing Sheldon and Miriam Adelson and Democratic-leaning Michael Bloomberg (who himself is reportedly considering a run for his party’s presidential nomination). The Steyers gave $70.8 million to Democrats and left-leaning organizations leading up to the midterms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

  • Forbes estimates Steyer’s worth at $1.6 billion. He ran the hedge fund Farallon Capital for 26 years. When he sold his stake in the fund in 2012, he turned to politics and environmental advocacy.
  • NextGen Climate Action Committee, the super PAC arm of NextGen America, Steyer’s environmental advocacy nonprofit, raised $60.8 million during the 2018 election cycle — $57.8 million of which came from Steyer himself, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

  • For Our Future, a left-leaning super PAC that fanned out in seven swing states last year to advocate for Democrats, was NextGen Climate Action Committee’s biggest recipient of funds. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., was NextGen Climate Action Committee’s biggest beneficiary among candidates during the 2018 election cycle, with the group spending $609,000 to support her candidacy. Rosen, a former congresswoman from Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Dean Heller in the Nov. 6 midterm election.

Billionaire Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer speaks March 20, 2018, at a gathering in Largo, Maryland, where he urged attendees to support impeaching President Donald Trump.  (Sarah Kleiner/Center for Public Integrity)
  • Steyer has taken his “Need to Impeach” Trump message — and his personal brand — to national audiences in slick television and digital commercials. Through Need to Impeach, Steyer has spent $2.7 million since May 2018 on Facebook ads, according to the social media giant. That’s the ninth highest amount spent on political Facebook ads during that time — behind former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who was battling Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for a Senate seat in Texas (No. 1) and pro-President Donald Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Committee (No. 2). Trump’s own 2020 presidential re-election committee, which has been active since the day of Trump’s inauguration, ranks No. 7.

  • Steyer has given $11.8 million to the Need to Impeach super PAC, which raised $14.6 million and spent $13.1 million last election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Need to Impeach spent millions of dollars on anti-Donald Trump mailers and internet advertisements.

  • The New York Times has reported Steyer employs upward of 200 staffers around the country, mostly for NextGen America — some of whom he attempted to hire anonymously through LinkedIn. Last year, a staffer touring with Steyer through Need to Impeach told the Center for Public Integrity that the Need to Impeach organization alone had 40 employees.

  • Steyer sees himself as a different kind of billionaire: someone who’s opened himself up to ordinary people instead of hiding in the comfort of exclusive gatherings packed with 1 percenters. Last year, he shook hands and chatted with supporters in Largo, Maryland, and Arlington, Virginia, as part of a 30-city, anti-Trump “Need to Impeach” tour.

  • Steyer spent heavily in Florida for Andrew Gillum, the liberal mayor of Tallahassee, who was running for governor in Florida. Gillum lost to Rep. Ron DeSantis, but in a twist, Steyer may have to face the candidate he once financially backed: Gillum is considering a run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

Sources: Center for Public Integrity reporting, OpenSecrets.org, New York Times, Forbes, Washington Post, Facebook, Politico, Federal Election Commission

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