Meet the Candidates: Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer, Billionaire: Steyer has made his fortune buying up companies and managing hedge funds. In recent years, he has turned environmentalist and philanthropist, founding an organization called NextGen America to urge young people to get out the vote on progressive causes. And in 2010, he signed the Giving Pledge to donate half his fortune to charity over his lifetime or in his will. His mainstream entry into the arena, well before announcing his candidacy, was running ads calling for Trump’s impeachment earlier than most Democrats. But Steyer was previously best known to Democrats as one of their biggest donors, and now he’s his own, spending a $100 million of his own dollars to fund the campaign.

Corporate Takeover/Voting Rights: Steyer’s main platform is reducing unchecked corporate big-money influence in politics in favor of promoting individual voter voices and re-establishing democratic values. He wants to overturn Citizens United, reform the FEC, set 12-year term limits on Congress, institute a variety of pro-voter reforms such as a national vote-by-mail system, independent redistricting commissions to prevent gerrymandering, and national referendums to give citizens the ability to directly vote on federal laws.

Climate Justice: Neutralizing climate change by 2045 is his stated goal, with his Justice-Centered Climate Plan. Similar to the Green New Deal, Steyer wants to achieve this by green jobs creation and a series of aggressive manufacturing goals, such as 100% clean standard for passenger vehicles by 2030. Steyer has shown solid efforts leading into this campaign, with a track record of grass-roots environmental successes through NextGen. However, his reputation as an environmentalist is compromised by the firm he founded, Farallon Capital Management, which invested hundreds of millions of dollars (and earned back billions) in coal production and power plants under his purview. Steyer sold his stake in the company in 2012 and shortly after opened his activist organizations, but continues to passively invest in non-greenhouse gas producing options through Farallon, which is still actively investing coal.

Immigration: Steyer donated $1 million to cover immigrant legal fees in the ongoing border crisis and supports the expansion of legal services until the situation can be resolved in a humane way. He’s also in favor of decriminalizing illegal entry and creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who contribute to our economy, calling our current system unjust in how we profit even as we oppress. And, he’s opposed to further wall funding (which not every candidate is opposed to…)

Wealth Tax: Like Warren, Sanders and several others, Steyer has introduced a wealth tax, a 1% tax on the wealthiest .1%. It’s far more modest than Warren’s proposal, which would tax 2% starting at $50 million and 6% on billionaires, and Sanders’, which ranges from 1% on 32 million to 8% at 10 billion.

5 Rights: Steyer’s personal focus for each voter is his 5 Rights: access to universal healthcare, equal access to voting, clean air and clean water, quality public education, and a living wage. How does this actually translate? He’s in the Medicare-For-All-Who-Want-It camp (while maintaining the private insurance options), and the $15/hour minimum wage. He supports a public pre-K option, raising teacher salaries, and forgiving certain types of student loan debt (though not all). And unique among the candidates, Steyer wants to make access to clean water a constitutional right.

Critics say… there’s no getting around the uncomfortable fact that Steyer, a success story of the corporate world, is now using his billions to fight the field he earned them from. Ditto with fighting climate change using coal money. For some, this is actually the best possible thing to do with that wealth, and Steyer has stated his change of heart. For others, his integrity remains under question, as does the larger issue: is a race for president between two self-proclaimed ‘outsider’ billionaires reeeeally what this country needs right now?

And finally: His father prosecuted Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. That obviously has little to do with Steyer himself, but it’s still cool.

For more information about Tom Steyer, visit the policies page on his website.