Steyer Continues Political Losing Streak in 2016

Billionaire environmentalist's super PACs backed six winners and eight losers

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer / AP
November 11, 2016

Tom Steyer extended his losing streak on Tuesday, as Republicans prevailed in a majority of federal contests in which the billionaire Democrat's political groups attempted to sway the outcomes.

Through three different super PACs, Steyer poured money into the presidential contest, nine Senate races, and four races for the House of Representatives. His favored candidates won six of those contests and lost eight of them.

The outcome of Tuesday's elections, especially the presidential race, has Steyer so unsettled that he is reconsidering plans to run for governor of California in 2018, he told a local network news station.

Steyer personally donated $56 million to his primary political group, NextGen Climate Action, during the 2016 election cycle, Federal Election Commission records show. NextGen then passed on six- and seven-figure sums to two other groups with which Steyer was directly involved: NextGen California and For Our Future PAC.

NextGen California was focused primarily on the presidential contest. The group ran ads in California attacking President-elect Donald Trump. For Our Future also went after Trump in addition to Republican candidates for House and Senate seats.

Candidates backed by one or more of Steyer's super PACs prevailed in three Nevada House contests and Senate races in Nevada, New Hampshire, and Illinois. His favored candidates lost Senate races in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri, Florida, and Wisconsin, and in a Wisconsin House race.

With the presidential contest, Steyer's 6-and-8 showing marked his second straight election cycle with a losing record of candidate support. In 2014, when he spent even more money attempting to elect congressional candidates and governors, his favored candidates prevailed in just three of seven races in which NextGen was active.

In all but one of those 2014 races, polls moved in the Republican direction after NextGen began running ads.

In the wake of his failure to help elect Hillary Clinton as president, Steyer suggested he may forego a planned California gubernatorial bid in order to continue spending considerable portions of his personal fortune electing Democrats that can serve as a check on President Trump.

"My thinking has changed," he told San Francisco's KQED. "We're in a very tough spot. And I'm damned if I'm not going to fight about it."

Though it has seen less success than Steyer would like, his political machine can bring considerable resources to bear on behalf of Democratic candidates. NextGen and its California arm spent roughly $80 million during the 2016 cycle, according to FEC records.

For Our Future, a partnership between NextGen and a handful of prominent labor unions, spent about $32 million after its formation in June.