The Non-Koch Good Billionaire

by Tom Rogan
For Democrats, Tom Steyer is a hero for donating millions to anti-Keystone candidates.

On Friday, the day to bury unpopular news, the Obama administration announced the extension of its Keystone XL review. A final decision is unlikely before the November midterms. The administration claims it needs this delay to resolve legal complexities. But let’s be clear: This is the submission of governance to partisanship. And it comes from the president who proclaims himself the maestro of infrastructure investment.

It’s impossible to overstate the absurdity of this situation. After all, the State Department recently found that Keystone XL would have no significant impact on the environment — a conclusion upheld by the department’s inspector general. And these reports are only the tip of a bureaucratic iceberg: The White House has spent years sending Keystone XL through the paperwork wringer.

Still, the motivation for this latest deferral is obvious. It’s a midterm-election payoff, intended specifically for Tom Steyer, a retired hedge-fund manager who has pledged to raise $100 million for anti-Keystone candidates. In short, facing the prospect of a Republican Senate, Obama has decided that governance can wait until November.

Thus we find ourselves left with a stellar example of Democratic campaign-finance hypocrisy. Cast your memory back to February. Remember Harry Reid’s rant against the Koch brothers for their “un-American” “attempt to buy” American democracy? What about Steyer? By Reid’s standards, Steyer’s $100 million purchase would surely represent a moral horror. Except that Steyer is a Democrat, which changes everything, because Democrats are the enlightened ones.

This is liberal hypocrisy at its insufferable worst. In the “courage pledge” that Steyer sent out Thursday, he presents himself as a visionary who stands up for “children” (a weapon-word he uses three times), and he claims that the Koch brothers’ “only interest is seizing complete control of Congress.” In one short letter, we get sentimental demagoguery (“working families” vs. “powerful forces”) alongside a heaping dose of moral superiority. And Steyer extends his focus far beyond the issue of Keystone: He lambasts conservatives for rejecting minimum-wage hikes, Obamacare, and union empowerment. If there’s any irony in the fact that a retired billionaire wishes to restrain an energy revolution that would create many thousands of jobs, Steyer seems oblivious.

Of course, Steyer is not the only hypocrite. In their foaming-at-the-mouth reaction to Citizens United v. FEC, and McCutcheon v. FEC, many leftists have made clear that they see free speech as an optional right, to be parceled out as progressives see fit. And Democrats as a party are simply subjecting every issue to this “us good, them evil” approach. Liberal media outlets are great guardians of democracy, while conservative advocacy groups are enemies of the Republic. Tom Steyer? Bold shield of the proletariat. The Koch brothers? Cloaked agitators for kleptocracy.

Overflowing with hubris and starved of logic, this is a truly repugnant distortion of democracy. Today, openly and proudly, many Democrats are not content to simply oppose conservative viewpoints and put forth persuasive arguments against them. Instead, they favor the public purging of unclean views from American society. Ultimately, Reid, Steyer, and company would have us believe, as Orwell might put it, that all animals are equal, but billionaire donkeys are more equal than billionaire elephants.

Tom Rogan is a blogger and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. He’s based in Washington, D.C.