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How influential is billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer?

Tom Steyer, founder and Co-Senior Managing Partner of Farallon Capital Management. He is one of the incentive's top supporters.
Tom Steyer, founder and Co-Senior Managing Partner of Farallon Capital Management. He is one of the incentive's top supporters.
Kevin Meynell/clcv/Flickr

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Today marks the one year anniversary of an important speech President Obama made on climate change in which he detailed plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 

Tonight, the White House will be looking at the potential economic damage of climate change. The guest of honor? A man who knows a lot about money and the environment — Tom Steyer.

Steyer has been involved in politics for some time, working on Democratic campaigns going back at least as far as Walter Mondale in the early '80s. But he seems to really be gaining political steam now.

The billionaire environmental activist, and the super PAC he founded — NextGen Climate — successfully backed two Democrats,  Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, in their election bids last year.

Steyer has vowed to spend $100 million or more to influence gubernatorial and U.S. Senate contests across the U.S. this November. He also opposes the Keystone XL oil pipeline project, which would bring oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The Obama Administration is still considering its position on the hot button issue.

How much do Obama and Steyer see eye to eye on this and other environmental issues? Looking ahead to elections this year and in 2016, how influential could Tom Steyer become?

For more on the liberal billionaire and the influence he wields, we're joined by Bob King, Energy Editor of Politico.


On Tom Steyer’s past political involvement

Politico’s Bob King reminds us that Steyer has supported the campaigns of Bill Bradley, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barrack Obama.

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King points out, though, that Steyer was not as visible until after the Citizens United Case "loosened the floodgates for billionaires to spend as much as they want” on any political cause they choose.

On Steyer and the environment

Steyer has made climate change his top priority, pledging at least $100 million to support candidates who support green policies in the upcoming primary elections and in 2016. King says Steyer calls fighting climate change, “the battle of our generation.”

On comparisons between Steyer and the Koch brothers

Steyer takes issue with being characterized as a liberal version of the Koch brothers. And according to King, the Koch brothers take exception to that comparison as well. But King claims, “Steyers efforts are not anywhere close to he scale of the Koch brothers’ efforts.”