Billionaire Tom Steyer Doesn’t See Himself as ‘Rich’

Attendee at Steyer event asks: 'Is there a person who can be a billionaire in politics and not be a bad guy?'

(Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Ozy Media)

Left-wing megadonor Tom Steyer, who is a billionaire and plans to spend $100 million on his long-shot presidential campaign, does not see himself as "rich."

Or so he told a small audience at a bookstore in San Francisco on Wednesday, according to the New York Times.

"Now you know, I know everybody always describes me as being rich. That is not how I see myself," he said. "But I can tell you this, the one thing it does give me is the right to say nobody owns me. I mean I will do exactly what I think is right."

Steyer made his fortune as a hedge fund investor, and he's built a national progressive profile with his massive donations to Democrats and progressive causes. He's also poured tens of millions of dollars into an effort to impeach President Donald Trump, at times to the annoyance of establishment Democrats.

Yet, the Times noted, in spite of being in his home state, "No one was peering in the windows. It was a quiet evening in a cozy event space." It described the crowd as being bored at times, with one person even falling asleep:

Throughout the evening, he gave long, thoughtful, sometimes wandering answers to questions. It was warm, and the demure audience became more so as the night wore on. Many yawned. Someone looked to be asleep on the sofa.

Unfortunately for Steyer, the fact that he's a billionaire when the Democratic Party is tacking hard to the populist left kept coming up with the attendees interviewed by the Times.

"I'd heard of him before just because he's a random billionaire," said 26-year-old Henry Grunzweig. "I guess I'm curious how an old white man billionaire is going to beat an old white man billionaire."

Evan Hynes, 28, asked if there is a person "who can be a billionaire in politics and not be a bad guy."

"He said grass roots a lot, but I wonder how true that is when you can fund your own campaign," Hynes said.