Tom Steyer, a billionaire investor and creator of the environmentalist super PAC NextGen Climate Action, is planning to spend $100 million in the 2014 election in order to topple elected officials who do not agree with his climate agenda, the New York Times recently reported. With his wealth and through his super PAC, he has launched multiple campaigns against oil, most recently against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Ironically, Steyer has made millions off of the very industries he claims are destroying the environment.
The Washington Spectator reported in 2013 that while Steyer was senior managing partner at Farallon Capital Management — a post he held until 2012 — the firm had $440 million worth of stock in oil and gas companies, about 10 percent of the company’s publicly disclosed equity portfolio.
Only days before Steyer announced that he would be leaving Farallon, the San Diego Reader reported that he still had investments in several companies that provided energy from coal and oil. His company held these investments even while Steyer was campaigning against California’s Proposition 23, which would have suspended California’s self-imposed cap-and-trade law.
One of the reasons Steyer reportedly left Farallon was because he had been uncomfortable with the company’s investment in fossil fuels; but he is comfortable using the money from fossil fuel investments to campaign against oil.
According to a CBC Canada report, Steyer has “instructed that his carbon-emitting investments be sold off.” If Steyer is truly divesting from fossil fuels, critics may largely suspend claims that Steyer continues to be hypocritical in his environmental activism.
Since leaving Fallaron, Steyer has focused much of his energy battling the Keystone XL pipeline, at one point airing a minute-long ad that the Washington Post’s Fact Checker said “relies on speculation, not facts, to make insinuations and assertions not justified by reality.” The ad earned four Pinocchios for, among other reasons, misrepresenting the relative size of Chinese investments in Canadian oil fields and for taking out of context a statement made by TransCanada’s president of energy and oil pipelines at a House committee meeting.
More than 20 days after the Washington Post’s report, NextGen Climate still features the debunked ad prominently on its website.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.