Support Intelligent, In-Depth, Trustworthy Journalism.
Live data on national races for Senate, House and state governors
San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer earned his fortune as the head of Farallon Capital, a hedge fund he ran for more than two decades before becoming a political activist and donor. He later made a name as a climate change advocate. Steyer and his wife, Kathryn Taylor, are the second-highest individual political donors in the U.S. Together they have contributed more than $200 million to Democratic campaigns over their lifetimes.
Steyer and his wife also run an 1,800-acre cattle ranch outside of San Francisco, called TomKat, which focuses on holistic agriculture solutions. Steyer has also spent millions of dollars on efforts to build the case for impeaching President Donald Trump, and plans to spend at least $100 million on his White House campaign.
Here’s where Steyer stands on key 2020 issues.
After leaving Farallon Capital in 2012, Steyer created NextGen Climate Action (now NextGen America), a political action committee and advocacy group dedicated to combating climate change. Steyer started putting his money toward various environmental causes, such as setting up a $2 million relief fund for victims of extreme weather events. He also divested from coal projects as part of his focus on renewable energy.
In 2012, Steyer was the primary financial backer of California’s Proposition 39, which sought to repeal a corporate tax break and redirect some of the funds to energy conservation efforts. Since then, he’s backed Democratic candidates that he believed would boost his environmental agenda, including former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey.
Steyer also lobbied then-President Barack Obama in 2013 to block construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, arguing that its negative impact on the environment would outweigh its potential economic benefits. Ultimately, Obama did not approve the project. Trump has since revived construction of the pipeline, which was approved by the state of Nebraska in November 2017 — a move that Steyer called “shortsighted and stupid.”
Steyer has said he wants to “take the corporate control out of politics,” adding that if corporations have an “unlimited ability to participate in politics, it will skew everything because they only care about profits.”
Steyer supports raising the minimum wage, and lists “the right to a living wage” as one of the “5 Rights” all Americans should have. He previously put money toward a carbon tax proposal in the state of Oregon, but has said that talking about “jobs and health” is a more effective way of getting voters to take interest in climate issues.
The billionaire environmentalist hasn’t made foreign policy a central part of his platform. But he has criticized Trump for “turning allies into enemies.” In his campaign to impeach Trump, Steyer released an ad lambasting the president for taking money from foreign governments.
Steyer is pro-choice, and made a point of saying so at the Netroots Nation conference in 2017, when he vowed his NextGen America group would not “work for a single candidate who is not pro-choice.”
On gun violence, NextGen America partnered with Everytown For Gun Safety to organize a voter drive for high school students following the 2018 shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. “If [Trump] won’t enact the kind of reform necessary to protect our children, that’s just another reason he’s got to go,” Steyer said in a Facebook announcement at the time, calling for young voters to push for “gun reform now.”
In a 2018 speech, Steyer said he supported “opening Medicare to all who want it.” Steyer told the Atlantic in 2017 that he was in favor of a single-payer health care system similar to the one proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
In his campaign announcement, Steyer also criticized pharmaceutical companies for profiting off of drug sales and spurning the deadly opioid crisis. In 2017, he supported a California bill that would require drug manufacturers to provide notification of price increases.
As the migrant crisis at the southern border ramped up last year, Steyer donated $1 million to legal aid groups working to assist immigrants facing deportation. He said it was vital that legal services for immigrants seeking assistance “be expanded and strengthened” until the U.S. was able to address the issue in “a comprehensive and humane way.” On its website, NextGen America states that a system that profits off of immigrants’ labor without offering them a path to citizenship is “inherently unjust.”
Courtney Vinopal is a general assignment reporter at the PBS NewsHour.
Support Provided By:
Support PBS NewsHour:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.