Despite Election Losses, Steyer Bankrolls Energy 'Resistance'
Despite heavy losses in the 2016 election, “keep it in the ground” billionaire Tom Steyer still believes voters support his political agenda.
The retired hedge-fund manager from San Francisco will fund “a resistance” to defend the Obama administration’s climate agenda, POLITICO reported Jan. 10. The incoming Trump administration and Republican majorities in Congress are planning a series of energy reforms that would roll back restrictions imposed by the Obama administration.
The results of the election indicate public support for these reforms, but Steyer says just the opposite. He believes the same voters who backed Republican candidates will turn against them almost immediately on energy issues.
“I think you cannot flout the will of the American people forever,” Steyer told POLITICO while explaining his thinking. Asked how much he will spend opposing Republican energy reforms, he replied: “I have no idea. Truthfully.”
Steyer’s strategy is interesting, because the will of the American people has been against him – not Republicans – in the past two election cycles.
In 2014, he spent $75 million trying to prevent Republicans from winning a majority in the U.S. Senate and failed. In 2016, Steyer doubled down, spending $87 million trying to win back the Senate for Democrats and put Hillary Clinton in the White House – an effort that also failed.
Steyer was the biggest single political donor of the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. His allies in the environmental movement also spent record sums last year trying to use climate change as an issue that would move voters. According to the Boulder Daily Camera, former U.S. vice president and climate activists Al Gore told Colorado voters: “This election in particular is a climate election.”
But Steyer’s bet on climate politics didn’t work. His support for environmental groups like 350.org and the Natural Resources Defense Council and 350.org angered some trade union leaders who support oil, natural gas and coal production along with the expansion of renewable sources like wind and solar.
“Tom Steyer and his allies oppose an all-of-the-above energy policy that not only creates good union jobs, but offers to keep the lights on and meet our nation’s energy needs even as we transition to a cleaner, more sustainable future,” the Laborers International Union of North America wrote in a letter obtained by the New York Times. “His vision of leaving oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels in the ground kills jobs, drives up energy costs, and threatens to strangle our economy.”
Months before Election Day, Chapman University urban studies professor Joel Kotkin warned that Steyer’s “progressive green orthodoxy” could leave “many mid-America workers and businesspeople feeling abandoned.” Sure enough, a rebellion among blue-collar voters boosted Republicans and spelled defeat for Steyer and his allies in last year’s election.