Published — January 29, 2019

Tom Steyer is spending big to hurt Donald Trump — before helping Democrats

Billionaire Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer walks near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, 2019. (Sarah Kleiner/Center for Public Integrity)


Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer is this week doubling down on his deep-pocketed political influence effort, taking aim at Democrats who aren’t keen on impeaching President Donald Trump.

The environmentalist and former hedge fund manager, who spent $120 million during the 2018 midterm elections and flirted with running for president himself, announced plans to spend another $40 million this year rallying the people on his massive list of Democratic voters to pressure members of Congress to impeach Trump. Many in the Democratic Party have resisted calls for impeachment until special counsel Robert Mueller finishes his investigation into whether Trump colluded with Russians to win the 2016 presidential election.

But as the 2020 election gears up — new presidential candidates are popping up every week — some are wondering whether Steyer is obsessed with impeachment to the detriment of helping Democrats win elections.

Steyer addressed this question, and others, with the Center for Public Integrity as he walked to the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday to deliver suggested Articles of Impeachment to members of Congress.

Center for Public Integrity: Everyone thought you were running a presidential campaign last year, that you were building a list that you were going to be able to use as a candidate.

Steyer: Yeah, I heard that.

Center: Why not run? What are you going to do with that list?

‘The No. 1 crisis in the United States is President Trump.’

Tom Steyer, Democratic megadonor

Steyer: I said all last year — even though people never believed me and kept trying to think that I was being disingenuous — I said I’m going to do the most positive differential thing that I can think of, and this is it. The point of the list was not about me. The point of the list was about raising the voice of Americans broadly, and now we’re trying to not only grow the list but deepen the engagement within the list.

Center: How do you plan to do that?

Steyer: We’re trying to get people on the list involved in their districts on the ground to make the point to their elected officials that there is strong support for impeachment not just from the country, but in their district, because they have to listen to that. We’re going to do paid media. We’re also going to have volunteer and paid staff on the ground. We’re going to go door-to-door, and we’re going to do town halls and we’re going to do polling.

Center: But this is focused on impeaching Donald Trump, not on getting a Democrat elected president?

Steyer: This is focused on impeaching. This is going to existing representatives to say, “Here are the facts about your district and all these people came together who are your constituents to say, ‘We want these impeachment proceedings to start right now.’”

Center: From an investment standpoint, if you’re going to invest $40 million in something, why do you feel it’s better to try to get Trump impeached rather than elect a Democrat?

Steyer: The No. 1 crisis in the United States is President Trump. I also really firmly believe that he is a direct attack on our values and institutions, and if you don’t stand up for your values and institutions when they’re attacked, that’s a statement. If you believe you can allow somebody to break the law with impunity because it’s inconvenient for you to do something or it’s risky for you to do something, then you actually don’t believe in the law. You believe in the law when it’s safe and convenient, and so you’ve made a huge statement about your values: that they’re only your values when it’s easy.

Center: At some point are you going to decide to make a major investment in the 2020 election on the Democratic side?

Steyer: Look, this is all we’re focused on right now. I am sure that I will be working full time for social justice in 2020, and exactly how, I have no idea. Every time I say that, people tell me, ‘Oh, we know what you’re going to do,’ and eeeeeh, I don’t think so. I don’t know, but I’m sure I will be working full time for social justice in 2020, and hopefully Mr. Trump will be out of office. For all the people worried about unseating him in November 2020, they won’t have to worry.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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