Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Billionaire environmentalist goes big in Virginia governor's race

Tom Steyer, the environmentalist billionaire who has mounted a national campaign opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, has directed his political operation to spend heavily in the Virginia governor’s race in support of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, POLITICO has learned. Steyer, a California-based financier, instructed advisers on Friday to launch television ads starting this week. The paid-media blitz from his group, NextGen Climate Action, will be the opening salvo in what’s expected to be a much larger effort aimed at mobilizing and turning out climate-oriented voters in a key off-year gubernatorial race. The enterprise will be a test both of Steyer’s individual influence in electoral politics, and of the impact of heavily-funded advocacy politics within the Democratic Party. The bet, for Steyer, is that making climate issues a prominent part of the Virginia election will nudge the center of national politics in a greener direction, shaping the political landscape for 2014 and 2016 and giving environmental interests a stronger hand to play in Washington policy debates. It will be Steyer’s second major foray this year into electoral politics, after he funded a turnout operation in Massachusetts on behalf of now-Sen. Ed Markey in the special election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry. In 2012, he put about $30 million into a successful home-state ballot initiative, Proposition 39, which will require multi-state companies to pay higher taxes in California and put a percentage of the proceeds toward energy efficiency. Plans for Steyer to play in Virginia have been in the works for some time now: his consultants have already polled the state and drawn up plans for an extensive voter contact and turnout effort. But the timetable for spending money on television accelerated last week in reaction to stepped-up advertising on the Republican side. In a lengthy interview with POLITICO, Steyer outlined the thinking behind his decision to engage in Virginia, calling Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli an environmentalist’s nightmare and describing the 2013 election as an opportunity to send a national message about the power of climate-oriented politics...more

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