Billionaire and major Democratic financier Tom Steyer argued Tuesday he has no personal financial incentive in his political activity–a claim that does not hold up well to scrutiny.
"I agree with the idea that money is too powerful in politics, it just happens to be the system that exists now," Steyer said in an interview with Chuck Todd. "I think that I'm very different from the Koch brothers in the sense that I have absolutely no personal interest in what happens except as a citizen of the United States."
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"So, whereas they're representing points of view that are in their personal monetary interest," he continued, "I'm actually representing the citizens of the whole country in terms of their diffused interest against concentrated economic interest that the Koch brothers represent."
The former hedge funder (Steyer left the investment firm he founded, Farallon Capital Management, last year) has become a major player in Democratic politics. He is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Massachusetts special election, according to FEC filings, working to prevent Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) from getting the seat.
Steyer's stated interest in that election has been stopping the Keystone Pipeline, just one of the environmental-focused outcomes he has pushed. Washington Free Beacon editor in chief Matthew Continetti wrote about Steyer's investments and political donations, and the way the two work together in a column last year:
In 2009 Steyer helped found Greener Capital, a VC firm that profits from investments in companies benefiting from the pronounced shift in energy policy under Obama and Chu. Also in 2009 Steyer’s name began to appear on the tax filings of the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP), the think tank that formulated many of Obama’s advanced energy policies. Steyer’s charitable group, TomKat, has donated more than a million dollars to CAP, and he is listed as a director on its most recent form 990. This is the same think tank remember whose founder served as the head of Obama’s transition team and that provided a desk to Steven Spinner, the Obama donor and Department of Energy official who pushed for subsidies to the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra (whom his wife’s law firm represented). This is the same think tank that coordinated policy and message with loan program officials according to emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. […]
When duly elected Rust Belt governors and legislators passed laws in Wisconsin and Ohio and Michigan to improve the business climates of their states the entire Western world searched for connections between their actions and the pocketbooks of Charles and David Koch. But when Steyer allocated $30 million for the campaign to support Proposition 39 on Election Day 2012, no one seemed to notice. Nor did many notice when the measure passed overwhelmingly and thus raised taxes on businesses incorporated outside California (i.e., businesses other than Farallon Capital Management and the alt-fuel companies in Silicon Valley) and used that money to fund $2.5 billion in … clean energy investments!