Billionaire Tom Steyer discusses climate change at a symposium in Sacramento, Calif., Aug. 20, 2015.
Photo by Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer has big plans for 2016


WASHINGTON – Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer has no regrets about his heavy involvement in the 2014 midterm election, when he spent a record-breaking $74 million. And in 2016, he plans to forge ahead to possibly spend an even greater sum.

The billionaire energy investor, who founded the environmental group NextGen Climate, was the largest individual spender in the 2014 elections, but ended up winning few races in a year that saw sweeping Republican victories across the board.

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Still, he told a small group of reporters at a breakfast in Washington Thursday hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund that he believes his team “broke even” in that they were able to drive up turnout and narrow the margins in races they competed in, while also pushing the issue of climate change into the national political discourse.

“Breaking even, is that where we want to be? Absolutely not, but I don’t feel apologetic about it,” he said, adding that presidential election years and far more consequential and high-profile than midterms.

Steyer wouldn’t speculate about how much money he’ll spend in 2016, saying he makes no budgets for political giving and engages opportunistically. “First of all, I’m not 100% [sure] of what I spent in 2014,” he said laughing when asked to name a figure. Nor did he say how his strategy might change. But he made it clear he is not backing off his involvement at all.

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Steyer supported Hillary Clinton in 2008 and has already hosted a fundraiser for her 2016 campaign, but he nonetheless praised rival Bernie Sanders. “Bernie Sanders has done the country a gigantic service” on climate and environmental issues, he said, “He really has tried his hardest to think through what is going on and come up with honest solutions.”

Steyer also said he is more confident than ever about fighting against climate change, thanks the new technology driving down the price of clean energy and polling showing more and more Americans are recognizing the threat. He also cited what he called “the three Ps: President Obama, the climate-hawk Pope, and the upcoming climate talks in Paris, as drivers of change. Steyer plans to attend the Paris talks, a pivotal gathering of world leaders set to begin on Nov. 30.