Convention features a few legislative endorsement fights and two statewide
by Brian Leubitz
This year is a "platform convention", meaning that all the policy focus will be to define our party's general goals. You can see the 2012 platform here to get an idea of the general document and what you can expect moving forward.
On the endorsement front, there will be much hubub about the Secretary of State race, with Sen. Padilla looking to get the endorsement and the other candidates looking for a block.
The other statewide race to watch is the Controller's race, where Board of Equalization Member Betty Yee will be facing off against Assembly Speaker John Perez as well as a Republican, David Evans, and former Green Party gubernatorial candidate Laura Wells. Perez would certainly appear to be the favorite for the party endorsement, but the 60% threshold could be an obstacle.
I'll be watching hanging around the convention all weekend, say hi if you see me. I'll probably be posting more to my twitter account than Calitics, so keep an eye out there.
Wide Field of Candidates Could Lead to Interesting General Election
by Brian Leubitz
The Secretary of State gig will be turning over this year, and there will be change. Lots of it. No matter which of the six announced candidates wins in November, the change from Debra Bowen will be stark. But as one of the two heavily contested races this year, I thought it would be worth a review of the current crop of candidates before the Democratic convention in LA this weekend. The race for the endorsement at this point seems to be Sen. Alex Padilla or a no endorsement position, but, of course, everything could change down at the CADem Convention. So, on to the candidates.
•Derek Cressman - Democrat, Former Director of State Operation for Common Cause.
Derek Cressman is not a household name, but under the auspices of Common Cause, he's done a lot of work on California campaign finance and other voter related reform. I've had the chance to work with him on a couple of occasions, and have always been impressed with the depth of his knowledge on the issues the SoS will face. From approving voting machines, to improving access and participation rates, and campaign finance regulations, I can attest that few people in California are as qualified for the job. And as far as I can tell, few people have anything negative to say about him.
All that being said, elections aren't always about qualifications. Cressman will need to continue to fundraise and then do everything he can to increase his name ID. He may get a bump if he is able to get a good ballot title, but clearly his vote total is limited by this recognition question. If he's able to squeak into the general election, all bets are off. His profile and qualifications would be very formidable in a two man race.
Curtis faces the same name recognition issues as Cressman without the long history in public policy around SoS-type issues. That being said, he clearly cares about the issues, with a special interest in using the power of the office in environmental issues. You can view his platform here.
Curtis has previously run for Governor in Nevada in 2010 and been active on other Green Party campaigns.
Alex Padilla brings a lot of innate advantages into the race for SecState. First, he is known as being a very bright guy around the capital, with a firm grasp on the issues. He is the only Latino in a crowded field; that alone may be enough to get him through to the general election. But if he does get there, he'll need to rely on a record that has only recently begun to be focused on the issues relevant to the office. While Padilla does bring a wealth of experience in local and legislative politics, only a handful of bills are relevant to the office. However, he does have some notable legislative accomplishments, including championing the Earthquake Early Warning System, a driverless car bill, and the bill for an LA NFL stadium.
• Pete Peterson - Republican, Executive Director of Davenport Institute at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University
Peterson's biggest advantage is something that he has no control over: he is the lone Republican. If another labeled Republican drops into the race, his position becomes a lot more difficult. That being said, Peterson is going to be as conservative as you could possibly elect in California statewide at this point. He has a record of working in bipartisan good government work, and the Davenport Institute, while at a conservative university, isn't overtly conservative.
However, he is attempting to consolidate the conservative vote. He's written a few articles for Flash Report that won't hurt his cause there. The June Republican vote will be relatively strong. If he is able to get 80%+ percent of the GOP vote, he'd be pretty tough to dislodge from one of those two November spots. However, come November, that Republican tag becomes more of a liability than an asset.
• Dan Schnur - No party preference. Former FPPC chair, Director of Jess Unruh Center at USC
First, let's be clear about something: Dan Schnur is a Republican. He worked as Gov. Pete Wilson's press director for five years, and then worked on John McCain's 2000 campaign. Now, he's always professed to be a moderate, and the McCain2000 work could back that up. However, his lack of party preference is more about wanting to draw votes from both Democrats and Republicans. It is an astute political move. Two Republicans in the race could very well mean no Republicans in the general election.
But his bio is stronger than Peterson's with his brief tenure at the FPPC and very public appearances on the behalf of government reform. And as Joe Matthews points out, he's the media's candidate. He'll need to use all of those media connections in the next three and a half months to increase name ID. Despite the rising number of decline to state voters, by definition those voters don't stick together. He has no real base of support, but will instead have to hope voters can embrace the "outsider" schtick from a former political consultant.
• Leland Yee - Democratic State Senator from San Francisco
Yee, having recently lost in his bid for San Francisco Mayor, has been building a strong resume for the office. Most notably, his online voter registration bill has made voting a lot easier and got a lot of good press for the senator and the state in general. More than a million voters have now registered to vote using the system. And over the past few years, he has built a long list of bills relevant to the job. He is seemingly following the steps that Debra Bowen took in her last few years in the Senate, and he is certainly a strong resume for this particular position.
On the other hand, Yee will also be carrying that state legislator ballot label and will have to hope that there is a strong turnout in the Asian-American community. That being said, he does have a complicated relationship with the community here in San Francisco, finishing a disappointing fifth place after taking some knocks in the press over a mixed record. He has built up a nice war chest, second only to Padilla, and could be a formidable candidate if the chips fall right. High Democratic turnout and/or weak Republican turnout could make this a two-Dem race, and you have to think that Yee would be in the best place to capitalize on that.
Here is the live stream of the forum with the six candidates.
Here are the air times on LA36: Sat 3/08/14 @12:30pmSun 3/09/14 @ 2:30pmSun 3/09/14 @10:00pmMon 3/10/14 @ 1:00pmMon 3/10/14 @ 9:00pmTue 3/11/14 @ 8:00amThu 3/13/14 @12:00pmThu 3/13/14 @ 6:30pmFri 3/14/14 @10:00amSat 3/15/14 @ 2:00pm
Senator Facing Corruption Charges Looks for His Day in Court
by Brian Leubitz
Say goodbye to that Senate Supermajority, as Ron Calderon has announced that he will be taking a paid leave of absence to focus on the corruption charges he faces.
"This is not a resignation since I still have my day in court," Calderon said in a statement. "However, due to the nature and complexity of the charges, and the discovery materials that I will have to review, I expect this to be a lengthy period of absence continuing until the end of the session in August."(SacBee)
Now, I'm not sure that there were going to be a ton of supermajority votes coming up this session, so perhaps that takes away a bit of the sting. However, don't tell MSNBC that, as they have a big headline on their homepage announcing that "Corruption suit costs Dems control of state" despite it actually doing nothing of the sort. (UPDATE: It now says "Dems lose supermajority in key state." Not sure why they couldn't say California, but hey, headline writers, amiright?)
On the more practical side of things, surely this will be annoying for Calderon's constituents. However, the fact that he is not actually resigning means that the rather expensive process of a special election will likely be avoided. The election would have been for a seat that has been redistricted out of existence, and would only have been filled for a few months by the time all is said and done. So, perhaps Calderon drawing a paycheck is actually the best of some pretty rotten choices.
Gov. Brown filed his papers for re-election today after writing a letter to the people of California, highlighting his record of working with everybody and ability to forge a compromise. With his approval rating approaching 60%, and a weak field of competitors, Brown looks very strong in his reelection campaign.
Data breaches at major retailers Target and Neiman Marcus during last year's holiday shopping season affected more than 100 million people and focused new attention on the need to protect person information stored online.
While it's clear that tough data breach legislation must be enacted, California Attorney General Kamala Harris is taking action to improve cybersecurity in the state before new laws are passed. Today she released recommendations to California businesses to help protect against and respond to the increasing threat of malware, data breaches and other cyber risks.
Harris' office also disclosed that California is leading a multistate investigation into the massive holiday season consumer data theft at discount retailer Target Corp. and luxury retailer Neiman Marcus, breaches that left tens of millions of customers at risk. More than 7 million Californians were affected by the Target breach alone, Special Assistant Attorney General for Law and Technology Jeff Rabkin said.
The U.S. Justice Department is taking the lead in trying to identify the culprits, who are suspected to be based overseas, while the multistate investigation focuses on whether the retailers share blame because they lacked the necessary precautions to prevent the thefts. The state investigation also will explore whether Target and Neiman Marcus acted properly as soon as they learned of the problem, Rabkin said in a telephone interview.
The guide, Cybersecurity in the Golden State, offers suggestions focused on small to mid-sized businesses, which are particularly vulnerable to cybercrime and often lack the resources to hire cybersecurity personnel. In 2012, 50 percent of all cyber attacks were aimed at businesses with fewer than 2,500 employees and 31 percent were aimed at those with less than 250 employees, Harris said.
Key recommendations for small business owners include:
Assume you are a target and develop an incident response plan now.
Review the data your business stores and shares with third parties including backup storage and cloud computing. Once you know what data you have and where it is, get rid of what is not necessary.
Encrypt the data you need to keep. Strong encryption technology is now commonly available for free, and it is easy to use.
Follow safe online practices such as regularly updating firewall and antivirus software on all devices, using strong passwords, avoiding downloading software from unknown sources and practicing safe online banking by only using a secure browser connection.
In 2003 California was the first state to pass a data breach notification. In 2012 the law was amended to require any breach that involved more than 500 Californians be reported to the attorney general.
>The 170 breaches reported to the attorney general's office in 2013 represent a 30 percent increase over the 131 identified the year before, according to figures provided to The Associated Press. Among entities reporting breaches in 2012 were American Express Travel Related Services Co., Kaiser Permanente and several state government agencies, including the departments of Public Health and Social Services.
Given the current data breach laws Harris is taking meaningful action. But, what's ultimately needed is a law that would make her best practice recommendations legal mandates. We need a California Financial Information Privacy Act that would:
Change breach notification standards to be immediate.
Set limits on the time data can be retained. And limits on what information can be collected and retained.
Write minimum-security standards into the law so that they are no longer voluntary.
Most importantly: create a private right of action. Put a price tag on retailers' mistreatment of our private financial information.
Until there is a real price to pay, Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers will continue to make us targets.
Posted by John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project Director.
Half hour film describes how Californians coped, circa 1977
by Brian Leubitz
UPDATE: The Legislature just passed the drought relief package:
In a concerted effort to aid California's drought-stricken communities, the Legislature on Thursday sped a $687 million relief package to Gov. Jerry Brown.
One week after Brown and legislative leaders unveiled the emergency legislation, both houses of the Legislature approved the bill with little resistance. The Assembly passed the bill 65-0, and the Senate sent it to Brown's desk with only three dissenting votes.(Fresno Bee / Jeremy White)
Now back to your regularly scheduled #TBT.
We've been through it all before, and we'll go through it all again. This is especially true with California's water. Check out this video, complete with classic fashion:
Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle has a way with a video camera like few else. She readily acknowledges the less than high tech camera work, even going so far as to name her video series "Shaky Hand Productions." But she has a way of being in the right place at the right time to ask some very pertinent questions.
Yesterday she posted another such video, this time a dimly lit interview of Gov. Brown. He covered the drought and the frustrating Bay Bridge situation. On mandatory water restrictions he hewed his refrain of letting local governments ride lead:
I like to focus attention and responsibility on local government, local school districts, whenever possible. So I certainly encourage every local community to do exactly what they need ... and when it becomes necessary for the state to take over and actually order (rationing) ... I'll certainly do that. "
Cruise on over to her blog post to get the full transcript. Looks like he'll officially kick his campaign off soon.
State Senators Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) have introduced legislation that would impose a moratorium on fracking and acidization in order to protect California's air and water from pollution caused by this dangerous form of oil and gas extraction.
The bill was introduced as California reels from a record drought and Governor Jerry Brown continues to support the expansion of fracking in California and the construction of the fish-killing peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).
Senators Mitchell and Leno's bill, SB 1132, faces an uphill struggle. All but one fracking bill, including fracking moratorium legislation, failed to pass through the Legislature last year due to intense lobbying by the Western States Petroleum Association and oil companies. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), headed by Catherine Reheis Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, is the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento.
The only fracking bill to pass through the legislature and be signed by the Governor in 2013 was Senator Fran Pavley's Senate Bill 4, legislation that gives the green light to fracking in California.
SB 1132 calls for a moratorium on all forms of "extreme well stimulation," including hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," and acidization until a comprehensive, independent and multi-agency review exploring the economic, environmental and public health impacts is complete.
Referendum fell below required total in manual count
by Brian Leubitz
The good news has been quickly spreading: the referendum to overturn AB 1266, a bill to guarantee equal opportunity for transgender students, has failed to gather enough valid signatures. From the Transgender Law Center's email just now:
Today, the effort to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act - California's new law ensuring that all children have a fair opportunity to succeed in school - failed to qualify for the ballot.
California's School Success and Opportunity Act - also known as AB 1266 - went into effect on January 1st ensuring that schools have the guidance they need to make sure all students, including those who are transgender, have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate. The law is modeled on policies and practices that are already working well in schools across the state, and gives important guidance to educators so they can work with students and families on a case-by-case basis.(Transgender Law Center)
The latest county by county count is available here (PDF). At the time of that document, supporters of the referendum were about 17,000 valid signatures short of the required total.
The proponents have indicated that they will investigate the invalid signatures, but the invalidity rate of 21.3% wasn't that much higher than the typical 19-20% invalidity rate. They may try to challenge something or other in the courts, but it looks like there will be no fight on this particular issue in November.
In the end, the failure avoids what could have been a harsh battle for the transgender community. Asm. Tom Ammiano, who authored the bill, is always one to find a silver lining:
The good thing that comes out of this misguided referendum effort is that we were able to continue to educate people. It's important that we begin to understand what transgender students are going through. I wish it was just a matter of ignorance. The forces putting this referendum together included the people that make money off promoting hate and professional fear mongers, who took advantage of what other people didn't understand. Although it's clear that California is moving in the direction of equality and respect, this does not mean the struggle is over. For every child like Pat Cordova - accepted on her Azusa High school's softball team last week - there is another child living with a secret because of bullying. The people who belittle the rights of transgender students should know their efforts encourage the bullies. It is their intolerance that allows the violence to continue, and that violence affects every child, not just transgender students. They should be ashamed.
Former Governor speaks out on redistricting and top two reforms
by Brian Leubitz
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had his ups and downs as governor. He peaked That's not all that abnormal, but with him it was entirely predictable. When he went toward the middle/leftish, he was up. When he veered hard right, he went down. 2005 hard-right special election? Down. AB 32? Up. And, more relevant here, redistricting measures? Up. You can check his approval rating history here.
And so he's trying to craft his legacy around the government reforms that have largely been quite popular. He'll be speaking at USC this morning about redistricting and Top-2. Yesterday, he published an op-ed that lets us know which victory lap he'll be taking.
Many of us believed, and voters agreed, that the two reforms in combination would put California on a path toward breaking up gridlock and hyper-partisanship, and making government work better for our citizens.
We were basing our efforts on common sense and a commitment to putting people over politics. And now, the early results are starting to come in, and they show that these reforms are working.
In 2012, the top-two primary yielded 28 elections that, for the first time, pitted members of the same party against one another. Also, legislative districts that previously had been gerrymandered to protect politicians were no longer "safe" for one party or the other. ... This year's races could shake things up even more, as candidates for office are forced to appeal to all voters, not just the party bosses.(Arnold Shwarzenegger in SF Chronicle)
Now, I think he has a few fair points in the op-ed. I was a strong opponent of the redistricting system when it was on the ballot, both times actually. But I'm big enough to admit that I was wrong. The system was far more responsive to the needs and desires of the voters, rather than the legislators. The process was transparent as any we have seen, and the results were fair. Sure, there were some who were disappointed by the results, but a fair system was always likely to upset some of the entrenched apple carts.
But, as for top two, the system clearly has some big flaws. First, despite his claims that somehow the primary system allowed "party bosses" to choose, the primary system was made up of voters. There is no better example of this than the Tea Party, an insurgent force within the Republican party. How many times have we now seen the wishes of party bosses completely ignored at the ballot box? And let's face it, the "party bosses" are bosses in name only these days. The bosses are really the big independent expenditure funding campaigns. Where they go, eventually our politics follows.
But the bigger issue of Top 2 is the troubling results it can sometimes yield to triumphs of game theory over the desires of constituents. There is no better example of this than California's 31st district in 2012. In that election, two well-known Republicans ran against four less well known Democrats in a district with a 15+% Democratic registration advantage. In a relatively low turnout June primary, Democrats received 33,402 votes, and Republicans received 32,265 votes. Yet there was no Democrat on the ballot. This is a brilliant play for Republicans, they picked up a seat they wouldn't have had otherwise. But, in the end, a plurality of voters in the district did not have an option from their own party. How does that make sense?
Add in the very troubling impacts of Top 2 on third parties, and you have a muddled, confusing, and anti-democratic system that favors parties that game the system with tight party boss control. If your party boss can't impose discipline, you may end up with no candidates on the general election ballot.
Finally, with all of this, Schwarzenegger's stated purpose was to create a more "moderate" legislature. In California, that really meant a less progressive, more pro-corporate body. It is hard to deny that Schwarzenegger was at least somewhat successful on that front. Despite the 2/3 Democratic control, many of these Democrats moved the caucus to the right. Now, whether you value the goal of making the legislature more moderate could lead you to differing judgments on Gov. Schwarzenegger. One would hope that a chief goal of structural government reform is to create a legislature that fairly and accurately represents the constituents, but that was never Schwarzengger's thing. Sure, he had a flair for populist rhetoric, but drifted in other directions when in office.
Schwarzenegger will be talking to the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe, so you will likely be able to see snippets of the conversation on TV. But, from a Governor who finished with an approval rating around 20% in 2010, there is a lot of work left to fully rehabilitate his legacy that a flawed government reform like Top 2 can't address.
Steinberg proposal would throw monkey wrench into cap and trade
by Brian Leubitz
Cap and trade is far from perfect. And if you ask many economists, you'd find a carbon tax as a solid alternative. However, a muddy mix of the two? Well, that raises more questions than it answers.
And, so we have Sen. Steinberg's proposal:
Next year for the first time, transportation fuels will come under the program: oil companies will have to account for the emissions from Californians' cars and trucks. The cost of buying additional pollution permits is one that companies are almost certain to pass along to consumers.
Steinberg's plan would make it more direct, as a tax that we pay at the pump. His reasoning is that while drivers will pay more for gas either way, with a tax the increase is more predictable and transparent.
"What people in California also need is pollution cuts," said Tim O'Connor, director of the Environmental Defense Fund's California Climate Initiative. He said that while he supports some of the ideas behind Steinberg's proposal, he's concerned it could undermine California's efforts to charge for the right to pollute, and to reduce greenhouse emissions overall. (KQED / Molly Samuel)
The bill seems far from complete, and will likely get a lot of revisions. But, today is the deadline for bills to be filed, and so here we have something. Now, generally when the Western States Petroleum Association is happy, as they have said they are eager to listen to these changes, it should draw attention.
Whether these changes would go anywhere involves a lot of questions for a system that was just about to start in earnest next year. This will surely change, but environmentalists will want to keep a keen eye on this bill.
Last year, under a flood of beverage industry money, two proposed sugary beverage taxes were easily defeated in Richmond and El Monte. However, Californians are still wary of the health risks that they present. To wit:
California voters endorse a proposal to require beverage companies to post a health-warning label on sodas and sugary drinks to alert consumers that their daily consumption contributes to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay. Statewide 74% of voters back this requirement, of whom 52% do so strongly. Support is bipartisan, with large majorities of Democrats (80%), Republicans (64%) and non-partisans (75%) endorsing the idea.
The poll also finds continuing support among the statewide voting public to tax the sale of sodas and other sugary drinks and use its proceeds for school nutrition and physical activity programs for kids. Two in three voters (67%) favor this proposal. The results are similar to a Field Poll completed in late 2012, which found 68% of voters statewide supporting such a tax. (Field (PDF))
Unfortunately, the beverage industry isn't keen on leaving anything to chance. And now San Francisco, led by Supervisors Scott Wiener, Eric Mar and Malia Cohen, are looking to put exactly such a measure on the ballot for November. The statewide poll found that within the San Francisco Bay Area, 78% of residents favor a soda tax to fund school nutrition and physical activity programs to reduce diabetes. San Francisco voters support it, but will all that Coke and Pepsi money be enough to confuse the issue.
Look, there are clearly some issues with the regressiveness of the sugar beverage tax. I don't have the exact figures on this, but one would expect to see that under the proposed measure, low to middle income San Franciscans would pay a far larger share of the tax than for other taxes. However, that is also the case with tobacco taxes, yet we tolerate those. The fact is that while sugary beverages have not yet been proved to be as dangerous as tobacco, they carry very severe health risks. The Boston Public Health Commission has some startling statistics.
One, 20-oz bottle of regular soda has about 16 teaspoons of sugar.
Teens consume twice as much soda as they do milk.
On an average day, 80% of youth consume a sugary drink.
A single, 20-ounce bottle of regular soda has about 16 teaspoons of sugar.
The average person consumes almost 100 pounds of sugar a year, with the single biggest source being sodas.
The American Heart Association recommends that the maximum daily intake of added sugars be no more than 4.5 teaspoons for teens aged 12-19.
Did you know, health costs of obesity in the United States are $147 billion annually? That's like buying everyone in the U.S. an iPad.
Economists call such taxes a case of "internalizing externalities." In other words, the government has been subsidizing these beverages, in the form of health care, for years. It is now time to include those costs in the price of the beverage.
Fracking requires vast amounts of water, where it will come from in a parched state
by Brian Leubitz
I've been writing a lot about the drought, more than I've wanted to recently. But the hits just keep on coming. In recent news, there is word that up to two million acres may be apportioned no water at all, thereby made to lie fallow. Of course, some of this is simply mandated by mathematics. To give enough water to the best farmland, you must let some lie fallow. The Republicans argue that we can simply take from the water we release to the rivers and the Bay, but that simply pits other interests against each other, most notably fishermen, of both the sporting and commercial varieties. George Skelton has a good take on this:
Don't blame the little fish. And don't call it the Central Valley.
Both comments, repeated incessantly, were irritants during President Obama's visit to parched California farm country last week.
The president was there-in the San Joaquin Valley-to cuddle with water hogs. The hogs are large growers who use lots of water, have just about run out and are angry because they're being denied other people's. And they keep complaining that the government is favoring a little "bait fish" over farmers.
*** **** ***
So water deliveries have been restricted not just for smelt, but also to protect salmon and the coastal fishing industry. It's not about farmers vs. fish. It's about farmers vs. fishermen. Or almonds vs. salmon. (LA Times / George Skelton)
Read the whole Skelton piece, it is a refreshingly honest take on the various interests that you don't often see these days. Water interests are varied, and can't simply be boiled down to farmers vs smelt. Skelton rephrases that debate as "almonds vs. salmon", a far more apt analogy. But, there is another huge water hog wating to join the queue for our very limited trough: the fracking industry.
Of course, water usage isn't probably the first concern of most environmentalists, myself included, with respect to fracking. The issues are deep and pervasive, there are many questions that remain unanswered. Issues of safety, water quality, and seismic stability are far from fully researched and should give the state pause. This is especially true in the days after a major fracking accident in Pennsylvania. (But don't worry, they'll give you a free pizza)
In places like Pennsylvania, where there is plenty of water for the moment, this isn't that big of an issue. But, the Times looks to Greeley, Colorado, itself in the midst of a drought. While it is not as severe as our own right now, water is always precious in the West. It takes a lot of water to operate hydraulic fracturing (thus the hydraulic part of that phrase):
Last fall the Environment America Research and Policy Center estimated that at least 250 billion gallons of water had been used since 2005 in the estimated 80,000 wells in 17 states. Drought-prone Texas led the way with at least 110 billion gallons.(LA Times / Jenny Deam)
As we move forward with hydraulic fracturing in what is expected to be a large reserve of natural gas in our Monterey shale, perhaps Alex Prud'homme asks the right question, will it be a boom or a boondoggle. It is imperative that we consider all the costs, both internal and external, before we move forward with any plan to aggressively tap our shale.
Former Hedge Fund Manager turned climate activist looks to make climate change big 2016 issue
by Brian Leubitz
Tom Steyer is no stranger to opening up his pocket book for causes in which he believes. He pretty much funded the Yes on Prop 39 by himself, contributing over $30m to the measure. He's now looking to spread his message to a wider audience, hoping to put the issue of climate change back on the radar.
California billionaire Tom Steyer turned heads in Washington with the news that he plans to spend $100 million to help make climate change a defining issue in this year's elections.
But it gets even bigger: The hedge fund executive turned green activist might be willing to lay out even more than that eye-popping number, and he's looking to spend it in places that are also important for 2016.(Politico)
His NextGen Climate Action SuperPAC is looking at going into a slew of important Senate and gubernatorial races, especially races that feature a climate change "denier."
Some are calling Steyer a sort of anti-Koch, but it is easy to overestimate the operation as well as misstating motives. First, Steyer does not have anywhere near the operation that the Kochs have. The Kochs have been building infrastructure for years, and have fostered a broad network of self-interested donors. Steyer has none of that infrastructure, but also none of the aversion to the media. He's friendly and media savvy, eager to explain why he focuses his time on climate change. Oh, and he seems not to have the duties to legacy environmental organizations and their donors that can occasionally unsettle coalitions.
Whether Steyer has plans, as rumored, of a race for Governor here in 2018 is still an open question. But he's certainly going to make a name for himself in the next two years if he does spend that $100 million.