Who Is Tom Steyer? The Activist Wants Trump Impeached
On Friday, President Trump attacked environmental activist Tom Steyer on Twitter, calling him "wacky [and] totally unhinged" and accusing him of opposing the "Make America Great Again agenda from the beginning." There's a reason Trump is singling Steyer out: The California environmentalist is spending $10 million on a campaign to get Trump impeached, and that campaign's first commercial aired on Fox and Friends on Friday.
"He's brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice at the FBI, and in direct violation of the Constitution, he's taken money from foreign governments and threatened to shut down news organizations that report the truth," Steyer says in the ad, which debuted online a week earlier. "If that isn't a case for impeaching and removing a dangerous president, then what has our government become?"
A former hedge fund manager and current billionaire, Steyer made his money in finance before shifting his focus to political activism and fundraising. In 2010, he was one of 40 billionaires to pledge half of his fortune to charity, and three years later, he founded NextGen America (formerly NextGen Climate), an environmental nonprofit and political action committee. Steyer is also a prominent fundraiser for the Democratic Party, but that's putting it lightly: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Steyer and his wife were the biggest individual contributors to federal campaigns during both the 2014 and 2016 election cycles — for either party.
Steyer, a California native, is also reported to have political ambitions of his own. Although he ultimately decided not to run for Barbara Boxer's Senate seat when she retired in 2016, Steyer confirmed in October that he's considering a run against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat of whom Steyer has been highly critical. He's also long been rumored to have his eye on the California governorship, and perhaps even the White House: In September, Steyer refused to rule out a presidential run against Trump in 2020.
For now, though, Steyer is squarely focused on getting Trump removed from office. His new campaign is called Need to Impeach, and it's more or less exactly what it sounds like. In addition to commercials, the organization has a website, which outlines the case for impeachment in a letter to Congress and asks supporters to co-sign it.
Steyer has been tight-lipped about Need to Impeach's future initiatives, but the letter he wrote stresses that "we are all working hard to ensure Democrats will take back the House and Senate in 2018." This strongly suggests that Steyer and the campaign will play an active role in trying to elect Democrats during the midterm elections, likely through fundraising and advertisements.
Trump alleged that Steyer "never wins elections," and while Steyer himself has never run for political office, he has backed losing candidates on several occasions over the decades, including former presidential candidates Walter Mondale, Bill Bradley, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. Steyer also gave over $75 million to Democratic candidates during the 2014 midterms — an election cycle that was ultimately a disaster for Democrats. Reaching back a bit further, Steyer volunteered for Mario Cuomo's unsuccessful bid for New York City mayor in 1977 (Cuomo later ran for New York governor and won).
That said, Steyer does have a few political wins on his belt. He raised over $50,000 for Barack Obama in 2008, and later emerged as one of the most high-profile opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline ("Meet Tom Steyer: The Man Stopping Keystone," a 2014 press release from the Republican National Committee reads). Obama ultimately put the kibosh on Keystone XL, and despite Trump's attempts to reverse that decision, the project is still in limbo, and its prospects do not look good.
Whether or not Trump gets removed from office will rely on many factors beyond Steyer's control, but his involvement — and funds — will most definitely be a boon to the Trump impeachment effort. Which is probably why Trump is insulting him on Twitter.