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, as well as a prominent climate change advocate. Steyer and his wife, Kathryn Taylor, are the second-highest individual political donors in the U.S, and have contributed more than $200 million to Democratic campaigns in the course of 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.
Climate change: Put more resources toward clean, renewable energy and reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels
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.”
Economy: Limit the influence of corporations in politics and raise the minimum wage.
In his campaign announcement, Steyer said he wanted 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.
Foreign policy: Avoid foreign interference in elections
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. He has argued that the Mueller report provides evidence that Trump obstructed justice by interfering in the special counsel’s investigation.
Social issues: Protect a woman’s right to abortion, and enact gun control legislation
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.”
Health care: Pursue a single-payer health care plan, and crack down on pharmaceutical companies
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.
Immigration: Fight deportation and expand services for immigrants
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.”