Tom Steyer, a billionaire, former hedge-fund manager, and environmentalist announced on Tuesday that he will run for president in 2020. Although late in the game, Steyer is looking to invest over $100 million in his campaign, which could potentially be a game-changer.
Steyer has donated millions of dollars to green initiatives as early as 2008, but his financial record contains hypocrisy — his hedge fund invested in coal mining. The question is: can Steyer be an environmentalist if he invests in renewables research while investing in coal? To answer that, we have to dig into how his financial success put him in a position to influence politics in the first place.
Tom Steyer‘s Success Provides a Segue Into Politics
For years, the public has kept a close watch on the Democratic megadonor, who also ran Farallon Capital, one of the largest hedge funds in America, before leaving in 2012. Although highly successful at that point, Steyer’s gain of national attention spiked after funding campaigns to impeach Trump. In the last two years alone, the billionaire activist has poured millions of dollars into these campaigns.
Tom Steyer’s Record as an Environmentalist
On the front line of his successes, Steyer’s Super PAC, NextGen America, is continuously influencing key political decisions, particularly when it comes to the politics around environmental policy. Allocating much of his money towards the climate crisis, he strives to elevate its severity in voters’ minds.
With Steyer’s political action committee strategically influencing Senators and Governors, much of its effort is geared towards races in which climate change can play a major role. Residually, the work done by NextGen carries over to shape voting patterns in 2020 as well.
But beyond politics, Steyer has had a long-standing (and money-intensive) record when it comes to environmental initiatives.
In 2008, Steyer and his wife donated $41 million to create the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University, which researches (renewable) energy systems and trains “future energy leaders through education and outreach.”
Later, in 2013, Steyer teamed up with billionaire Michael Bloomberg on the Risky Business Project, which focuses on vocalizing the economic ramifications of climate change. In 2015, Steyer joined Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Coalition, dedicated to supporting green energy initiatives.
Steyer’s Hypocrisy: Record of Investing in Coal Mining
Despite his reputation as an environmentalist, Steyer didn’t include climate change in his announcement pitch. However, Steyer slights towards the topic by arguing that climate change stems from a broader issue: corporate greed.
He holds a similar view to Elizabeth Warren, who also believes corporations (specifically, corruption) are the underlying problem.
Throughout his lifetime, Steyer’s career has had an abundance of opportunities. However, his successes coexist alongside many related controversies. While Steyer continues to make strides in his climate change activism, many often criticize his record as hypocritical and opportunistic.
From 1999 to 2014, Steyer’s company, Farallon Capital, had ties to many companies. Among these relationships, recent reports reveal that Farallon invested in companies that operated international coal mines and coal-fired power plants.
Steyer’s long-standing dedication to environmentalism cannot be ignored. Undeniably, he has spent millions on renewables research and initiatives that have uncovered the severity of the climate crisis.
However, because he led his hedge fund to back coal projects, Steyer’s reputation as an environmentalist can be debated. Should the pursuit of financial gain excuse him from investing in coal mining?
That’s up to you to decide.