A Few Questions Ahead Of California Billionaire Tom Steyer’s Denver Visit
Despite being a top national campaign donor in the past three election cycles, California billionaire and political activist Tom Steyer has a losing track record and has split the Democratic Party, especially on issues of energy and the environment. So his visit to Denver this week will undoubtedly create heartburn for Democratic officials.
Steyer’s latest visit to Colorado is part of his impeachment roadshow, and his first foray into the Rocky Mountain West. He will be at the Mile High Station on Wednesday as part of his national “Need to Impeach” crusade, in which he has invested at least $40 million in a campaign to oust the President. Democrats across the country, including House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi and former senior advisor to President Obama David Axelrod, have voiced significant reservations about the campaign.
In Colorado, Democratic U.S. Reps. Dianna DeGette and Ed Perlmutter voted against an impeachment resolution earlier this year. But Congressman Jared Polis, also a candidate for Governor, voted in favor of the measure.
Steyer has already made several direct contributions in Colorado state legislative races, as Western Wire reported earlier this year. These endorsements include Rep. Tony Exum (HD-17), Rep. Barbara McLachlan (HD-59), and Rep. Jeff Bridges (HD-3). Additionally, Steyer’s wife Kathryn Taylor has maxed out her contributions to Exum. Will these candidates be attending the event and back his controversial comments?
In addition to his direct campaign donations, Steyer has poured money into numerous groups that seek to impact Colorado’s elections, including Conservation Colorado. As the Durango Herald recently reported, Steyer’s organization donated $280,000 to Conservation Colorado in 2016 alone. This year, the group has dumped tens of thousands of dollars into opposing the recall of La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt. Further, Steyer’s group spent $357,000 on polling and research in the state. Recall that in 2015, the climate activist was honored by Conservation Colorado as their “Rebel of the Year.”
Steyer’s record in Colorado leaves Democrats distancing themselves from him. While they will take his campaign contributions they don’t want to be seen with him. His anti-fossil fuel agenda simply doesn’t sell in a state that values responsible oil and gas development. A perfect example just might be Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who has partnered closely with Steyer on his climate agenda, but distanced himself publically.
Perhaps the biggest question mark is Steyer’s relationship with Polis. As noted above, Polis did support the impeachment agenda in his vote in Congress this year. Polis also backed anti-energy ballot measures when Steyer first got involved in the state back in 2014, when the Californian spent big in an unsuccessful bid to defeat U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. But Polis is doing his best to distance himself from his anti-energy record, now telling industry that he wants to see a thriving oil and gas industry. How does Steyer feel about Polis now?
There should also be room to ask Steyer about his involvement in the national climate litigation campaign, with lawsuits filed in California, New York City, and for the first time, a non-coastal city in Boulder, Colo. At every opportunity, Steyer seeks to distance himself from the campaign, yet reporting shows there are numerous examples of his involvement. Does Steyer and his various groups back this effort in Boulder?
Ignoring Godwin’s Law of political discourse, Steyer’s impeachment townhall last week in Iowa drew a comparison of the U.S. President to Adolf Hitler, and was recorded on video. After a woman in the crowd drew the analogy, Steyer told the audience, “Mr. Trump has – he really is an incredibly skillful and talented communicator. He really is – which Hitler was, too.” While “Mr. Trump has shown a disregard for our law,” Steyer offered, “he hasn’t killed millions of people.” When the friendly crowd wasn’t satisfied with Steyer’s response, he told the crowd with a chuckle, “That’s why we want to impeach him. We’d like to end it here, while it’s still okay.”
For those reporters paying attention to his various antics, several major questions remain front of mind: which Colorado candidates will stand with Steyer at the impeachment event? Does Steyer stand by his controversial comments in Iowa? Will he endorse any of the Democratic candidates running for statewide office, especially in the Democratic primary races for governor and attorney general?
Questioning Steyer could provide political fireworks. Just take ABC News’ Power House Politics podcast interview with Steyer this week, which certainly got the California billionaire riled up when Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein questioned the political wisdom of a NextGen America Mother’s Day ad that equated membership in the Republican party with racism.
Steyer’s visit to Colorado should provide the public better insight into the direction of several of the candidates running for office in Colorado this year. Given Steyer’s love of media attention, there should be no shortage of opportunities for the press to ask these questions. But don’t expect candidates running for office to respond to Steyer’s antics while in the state.