It's unfair to compare California billionaire Tom Steyer to the Koch Brothers much deeper than on the surface. Both are ridiculously rich, and both are spending tens, if not hundreds of millions, on the 2018 midterm elections. But where the Kochs are investing in a GOP who will give them billions in returns on their business ventures, Steyer is spending on the Democrats to push his ideology, and that ideology is the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump from office
Tom Steyer has set plans to spend at least $110 million in 2018, making the billionaire investor the largest single source of campaign cash on the left and placing him on a path to create a parallel party infrastructure with polling, analytics and staffing capabilities that stand to shape and define the issues the party runs on in November.
Steyer is building out an operation that’s bigger than anyone other than the Koch Brothers — and the billionaire and his aides believe the reservoir of non-traditional voters he’s already activated could become the overriding factor in House and other races across the country.
Yet Steyer’s oversized role also stands to position him squarely against Democratic Party leadership, which has shown little appetite this fall for pursuing one of his signature causes: impeachment.
Unlike the $80 million being spent by Mike Bloomberg, Steyer will put his cash toward building out NextGen America and Need to Impeach, his two growing political organizations, as well as funding clean energy ballot initiatives in Arizona and Nevada. Steyer has already doubled his initial $20 million investment in Need to Impeach to $40 million, and has not ruled out adding more.
Steyer has also already dropped over $5 million into his For Our Future PAC, and is expecting more outlays on behalf of individual candidates like the $1 million he put behind Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, though likely not in any of the remaining primaries.
Between the two organizations, he’ll have close to 1,000 people on staff, in addition to over 2,000 volunteers. The Need to Impeach email list alone has already topped 5.5 million, which their research — anyone who signs up with the effort has their information run through a series of voter files and other databases — shows includes a very exact 697,780 infrequent voters in the 63 most competitive House districts.
“Our list is bigger than the NRA’s — and we’re going to make sure that it votes that way in 2018,” said Kevin Mack, lead strategist for Need to Impeach.
It's not just party leaders who are wary of Steyer, he has plenty of enemies among the DSA set, who see him as exactly the 0.00001% elite that the Democrats must avoid in order to not surrender their souls and actually do things for the people. It's a fair and pragmatic criticism to say that Steyer could put his money towards fighting for Medicaid expansion at the state level, for instance, rather than impeachment.
In just the last decade, Steyer skyrocketed to become the Democratic Party’s biggest donor, only to leave that behind to invest instead in his own organizations and causes, to the irritation of party leaders — particularly those who worry that he’ll hurt them politically by talking up impeachment. That pushback seems to encourage him, while also encouraging talk that he’s interested in a 2020 presidential run, though he tends to push back on that by pointing out that many people first interpreted his spending in this cycle as the prelude to a 2018 campaign for California governor or senator.
Most of those voters, based on their analyses, skew older and female, while the NextGen America effort is focused on younger voters in 11 states which are likely to be important both in 2018 and 2020.
Those voters and others, according to new internal polling and focus group data commissioned by Steyer and described by people familiar with its findings, are very eager to hear Democratic candidates talking more about impeaching President Donald Trump: just 32 percent of Democrats said that they wanted their candidates to avoid the topic, while 59 percent said that they didn’t want Republicans dictating the terms of the campaign “so of course Democrats should talk about impeaching Trump if the Democrats win big in November.”
This however is also
a very pragmatic point. If talk of impeachment gets young Democrats out to vote who otherwise would have not voted, I'm 110% okay with the prospect.
And for the record, the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump is still not happening. Impeachment is possible. Removal will not happen...unless the GOP Senate takes a large enough hit in November that it becomes politically
impossible not to.
So yes, motivating voters now on impeachment later is something I'm fine with Steyer doing.