The Washington State Republican Party alleged on Wednesday that billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer is illegally supporting a Democrat’s state senate campaign.
Steyer gave $3 million to his NextGen Climate Action Committee on Friday. This brings his total contributions to the group, which is incorporated in Washington, to $9.3 million since July, according to state disclosure records.
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The state GOP claimed in a legal complaint filed on Wednesday that the latest contribution runs afoul of state laws that prohibit contributions larger than $5,000 within three weeks of a general election
NextGen has given $250,000 to another Washington group, the She’s Changed PAC, which has spent more than $500,000 supporting the reelection campaign of Democrat state senator Nathan Schlicher or opposing his Republican opponent, state representative Jan Angel.
Steyer’s PAC has also given $275,000 to Washington Conservation Voters, which has passed along $150,000 to She’s Changed, and $55,000 to the Kennedy Fund, an arm of the state Democratic Party that has given another $217,000 to She’s Changed.
"All told, Steyer’s committee has funneled $455,000 into She’s Changed PAC to attack and slander Representative Jan Angel," the complaint states.
She’s Changed has bought media and Internet advertising, direct mail, and printed ads, and paid for canvassing in support of Schlicher’s campaign or in opposition to Angel’s.
"Thomas Steyer is clearly trying to buy this election for Senator Nathan Schlicher, and now he has broken the law in order to do so," Republicans alleged.
NextGen denies any wrongdoing, insisting that Steyer’s latest $3 million contribution will not be spent in Washington.
The committee is registered in Washington, requiring it to report the contribution to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.
Steyer "didn’t give the money to the PAC in Washington. He gave it to the federally registered PAC," NextGen spokesman Matthew Lewis told the Tacoma News Tribune. "It shows up in the Washington disclosures because that’s what the rules require.
Republicans say they remain concerned that the committee "will illegally spend this $3 million in the current election."
They asked the Disclosure Commission to issue an injunction requiring NextGen to return the money to Steyer "and prevent the committee from spending the money in the next two weeks."
Much of the funding Steyer has provided for NextGen has been spent out of state on behalf of other Democrats.
NextGen was highly active in the Massachusetts Senate race, where Steyer helped Democrat Ed Markey circumvent his pledge to refuse "dark money" in his successful run for U.S. Senate.
Steyer has also backed Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, who has endorsed hardline environmentalist positions despite the state’s large coal industry.
Environmental issues define Steyer’s political activism, but some have questioned the intellectual consistency of his positions due to some environmentally destructive practices at Farallon Capital, the hedge fund that he ran until last year.