Michigan Dem Takes Anti-Keystone Cash

Despite decrying outside billionaires influencing race, Gary Peters attends Steyer fundraiser

Gary Peters
Gary Peters / AP
May 5, 2014

Michigan Democratic senatorial candidate Gary Peters attended a fundraiser held by anti-Keystone billionaire Tom Steyer despite his proclaimed opposition to the influence of out-of-state billionaires on Michigan politics.

Steyer, a hedge fund billionaire, has pledged to spend $100 million in 2014 to elect environmentalist Democrats in February. Peters accompanied Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to Steyer’s San Francisco mansion less than a week after the announcement. The pair dined on salmon and grass-fed beef from Steyer’s personal ranch and before walking away with $400,000 for Reid’s Senate Super PAC.

Peters has collected $170,000 from leadership PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Peters’ pilgrimage to San Francisco contrasts his commitment to getting so-called dark money out of politics, as well as his public statements criticizing the libertarian Koch brothers. His campaign site’s blog attempted to connect Republican candidate Terri Lynn Land to the liberal boogeymen.

"The Koch Brothers: out of state oil billionaires trying to buy the election for Terri Lynn Land," the post said. "They share an agenda. … If Terri Lynn Land and the Koch Brothers win—Michigan loses."

Peters’ environmentalist position mirrors Steyer’s agenda. The environmentalist billionaire’s top priority is blocking the Keystone Pipeline, which would create tens of thousands of jobs. The Obama administration delayed the project again in April, just weeks after President Barack Obama attended a $5,000-per-plate fundraiser at Steyer’s.

A League of Conservation Voters scorecard gave Peters a 93 percent approval rating in 2013, four points higher than his lifetime average. He inserted environmental language into Keystone legislation that would hinder the construction. He has received numerous endorsements from environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, and his campaign has pocketed more than $14,000 from the League of Conservation Voters.

The Land campaign slammed Peters for placing big money donations ahead of the interests of Michigan workers.

"Congressman Peters has sold out the workers of Michigan to a liberal California billionaire. To Michigan families and workers, the Keystone means more jobs, lower gas prices and greater American energy independence, but to Gary Peters opposing it means a political meal ticket," Land spokeswoman Heather Swift said.

Those positions may have won Peters support from big money donors like Steyer, but the Democratic congressman is also relying on financial support from labor groups that support the pipeline. Obama’s Keystone delay sparked outrage from some major labor unions.

Land and Peters are running neck-in-neck for the Senate seat held by outgoing Democrat Carl Levin.