Steyer Spotlights Himself in First Presidential Ads

Billionaire Dem’s new Super PAC cuts two ads hitting Donald Trump

Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer / AP
May 23, 2016

Billionaire Democrat Tom Steyer’s first direct foray into the presidential race is coming by way of a new Super PAC cutting anti-Donald Trump ads in an effort to convince young people to register to vote and turn out on election day, public records show.

NextGen California Action, a new offshoot of Steyer Super PAC NextGen Climate Action, has spent about $634,000 since April on television and digital ads attacking Trump’s positions on immigration and climate change.

Both TV spots feature Steyer speaking to the camera and end with pleas to register and vote.

The climate change-focused ad, titled "Hoax," aired on CNN, MSNBC, and all three networks’ Sunday news shows in late April and early May. The immigration ad, titled "Wall," was broadcasted on CNN, MSNBC, and Comedy Central in mid-May.

The ads represent Steyer’s first spending directly on a presidential race. Though Steyer is expected to be very active in the presidential contest, NextGen Climate has not made any federal independent expenditures yet this cycle. It dropped nearly $75 million on Senate and gubernatorial contests in 2014.

NextGen Climate has provided all of the funding for its California arm so far. Federal Election Commission filings show it passed on $325,000 to the group in April. Its $376,000 in independent expenditures so far this month suggest that it brought in additional financing since then.

To the extent that NextGen California is financed by NextGen Climate, its money is coming almost entirely from Steyer himself. Of the $24,564,330 raised by NextGen Climate this cycle, $24 million, or 98 percent, came from Steyer.

In addition to its federally focused California arm, NextGen has passed on money to an affiliate in Pennsylvania focused on 2016 state-level contests.

NextGen has also donated to pro-Clinton Super PAC American Bridge; Americans United for Change, an advocacy group run by the president of Correct the Record, another pro-Clinton Super PAC; Democracy Alliance-backed political group America Votes; Iran nuclear deal booster the Truman Project; and the Virginia arm of the League of Conservation Voters.

While some of that money will likely find its way into advertisements, including ones focused on the presidential contest, NextGen California’s anti-Trump ads are Steyer’s first ads focused directly on a presidential race.

The launch of NextGen California in late April came as Steyer readied the launch of another Super PAC, a joint effort with some of the nation’s largest labor unions called For Our Future PAC.

That group, which aims to spend $50 million on races in key battleground states, has drawn heavy fire from blue collar elements of the Democratic coalition, who accuse Steyer and the unions with which he is collaborating of attempting to kill jobs in the name of environmentalism and pyrrhic political gains.