Tom Steyer

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tom Steyer

Thomas Fahr Steyer (born 1957)[1] is a billionaire philanthropist, environmental activist, and major donor to the Democratic party. Forbes, which estimated Steyer's net worth at $1.6 billion as of February 2020, notes that Steyer "spent some $65 million to back select Democratic candidates and environmental causes in the 2016 election cycle."[2] Steyer ran for president in the 2020 Democratic primary,[3] dropping out after the South Carolina primary on February 29th.[4]

News and Controversies

Presidential Run

On July 9, 2019, Steyer announced his run for president as a Democrat.[3] Steyer placed sixth in New Hampshire and fifth in Nevada.[5] He placed third in South Carolina,[5] but dropped out after the primary results came in.[4]


Steyer has been criticized for his past investments, including in private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America and various fossil fuel projects, "including a giant coal mine in Australia that generates vast quantities of carbon emissions."[6]

A 2014 New York Times article reported, "Over the past 15 years, Mr. Steyer’s fund, Farallon Capital Management, has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into companies that operate coal mines and coal-fired power plants from Indonesia to China, records and interviews show. The expected life span of those facilities, some of which may run through 2030, could cloud Mr. Steyer’s image as an environmental savior and the credibility of his clean-energy message, which has won him access to the highest levels of American government."[7]

Steyer has since divested from Corrections Corp. of America[6] and claimed to have completely divested from the fossil fuel industry "over 10 years ago" when asked about it in a 2020 presidential debate.[8] Multiple sources have noted that Steyer's investment portfolio still contained fossil fuel interests as of the time of the debate.[8][9]

The billionaire had also claimed "There’s probably some dregs left" when asked about his oil, gas, and coal investments in a 2019 MSNBC climate forum.[8][9]

Political Spending

As reported by OpenSecrets, Steyer gave the most to outside spending groups of any individual in the 2016 cycle, totaling $89,794,744.[10]

A 2014 Men's Journal article about the billionaire claimed, "The unmitigated flow of money into politics isn't everybody's idea of a high-minded solution. But Steyer takes a zero-sum view: If moneyed oil interests are paralyzing our political will to confront climate change, then moneyed antagonists are required to counter them from the left. [During the hike with the interviewer] he spends a fair amount of time contrasting himself to his analogues on the right, especially the Koch brothers, the plutocrats famous for backing pro-business candidates with their group Americans for Prosperity."[11]

NextGen Climate Action/NextGen America

Steyer provides the overwhelming majority of funds to NextGen Climate Action, a super PAC which has supported Democratic candidates and environmental causes. For example, Steyer donated $66.9 million in 2014, while the next highest donor contributed $1 million.[12] In 2016, Steyer donated $89.5 million while the next highest donor contributed $600,000.[13]

In federal elections, the PAC spent $19,504,503 in 2014,[14] $9,784,721 in 2016,[15] and $4,123,244 in 2018.[16]

Steyer's project has since been renamed "NextGen America". As reported by MLive, "NextGen is still focused on environmental issues, but that mission is now folded in with the voter registration drive. Since it started operations a few years ago, the organization has been on 360 college campus, knocked on 12.5 million doors and registered 1.3 million Americans to vote, according to Steyer."[17]

The organization explains its 2020 plan as follows: "NextGen America is working to turn out people under the age of 35 who are less than likely to vote or who are not currently registered to vote. These young people are hard to find, expensive to mobilize, and have a reputation of not being particularly interested in politics. For those reasons, traditional political campaigns leave them out – but we have the expertise to find young people, bring them into the political process, and make them lifelong voters."[18]

A 2016 NextGen America ad called "It Starts With Your Vote" voiced by actress Natalie Portman


  • MBA, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 1983[11]
  • Yale, 1979[19]
  • Phillips Exeter Academy, 1975[20]


  • Founded Super PAC NextGen Climate Action Committee and nonprofit NextGen Climate Action, 2013[21]
  • Founded hedge fund Farallon Capital Managment, 1986[1]
  • Worked at Goldman Sachs between graduating from Stanford and 1986[1]

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch

External Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Amy Tikkanen, Tom Steyer, Encyclopaedia Brittanica, last updated January 1, 2020, accessed February 27, 2020.
  2. Forbes, Thomas Steyer, media website, accessed February 27, 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Nicholas Wu, "Billionaire and activist Tom Steyer announces run for president", USA Today, July 9, 2019, accessed February 27, 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Juana Summers, "Tom Steyer Drops Out Of 2020 Presidential Race", NPR, February 29, 2020, accessed March 2, 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bloomberg News, "Who’s Winning the 2020 Presidential Delegate Count?", Bloomberg News, last updated February 24, 2020, accessed February 27, 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Michael Finnigan and Seema Mehta, "Tom Steyer’s bets on private prisons and coal mining could spell trouble in 2020", LA Times, July 11, 2019, accessed February 27, 2020.
  7. Michael Barbaro and Coral Davenport, "Aims of Donor Are Shadowed by Past in Coal", New York Times, July 5, 2014, accessed February 27, 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Rebecca Beitsch, "Steyer claims he divested from fossil fuels a decade ago, but it's more complicated", Hill, January 14, 2020, accessed February 27, 2020.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Bill Allison and Tom Maloney, "Billionaire Candidate Steyer Admits to Carbon ‘Dregs’ From His Hedge Fund Days", Bloomberg, September 20, 2019, accessed February 27, 2020.
  10. OpenSecrets, 2016 Top Donors to Outside Spending Groups, research website, accessed February 27, 2020
  11. 11.0 11.1 Joe Hagan, "Tom Steyer: An Inconvenient Billionaire", Men's Journal, February 18, 2014, accessed February 27, 2020.
  12. OpenSecrets, NextGen Climate Action Top Donors, 2014, research website, accessed February 27, 2020
  13. OpenSecrets, NextGen Climate Action Top Donors, 2016, research website, accessed February 27, 2020
  14. OpenSecrets, NextGen Climate Action, research website, accessed February 27, 2020
  15. OpenSecrets, NextGen Climate Action, research website, accessed February 27, 2020
  16. OpenSecrets, NextGen Climate Action, research website, accessed February 27, 2020
  17. John Counts, "Anti-Trump billionaire pays big bucks to get out the millennial vote in Michigan", MLive, June 4, 2018, accessed February 27, 2020.
  18. NextGen America, 2020 plan, nonprofit website, accessed February 27, 2020.
  19. Eamonn Smith, "Tom Steyer ’79: From a soccer walk-on to team captain", Yale Daily News, January 22, 2020, accessed February 27, 2020.
  20. James Pindell, "These two presidential candidates went to the same high school", Boston Globe, July 13, 2019, accessed February 27, 2020.
  21. Mark Shtrakhman, "NextGen Climate Action Committee",, April 20, 2018, accessed February 27, 2020.