Tom Steyer, an environmentalist billionaire, is unveiling plans to spend $100 million this year in seven competitive Senate and gubernatorial races, as his super PAC works to counteract a flood of conservative spending. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Talk about major Tom! San Francisco hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer -- as part of a coast-to-coast environmental crusade -- says he'll spend millions of dollars (maybe $8 million, maybe $15 million...who knows?) to make sure Tom Wolf defeats Tom Corbett in November. Here's my story from the front page today's Philadelphia Daily News:
TOM STEYER, a politically active hedge-fund billionaire from San Francisco who calls global warming "the greatest moral crisis of our time," draws the sign of the cross on his left hand with a ballpoint pen every day.
His right hand will soon be busy writing something else: large checks that he hopes will help elect Democrat Tom Wolf as the next governor of Pennsylvania.
Political advisers say the progressive, unconventional retired financier has decided to invest a fortune - estimates range from $8 million to a whopping $15 million, depending on the closeness of the race - to block Gov. Corbett from a second term because he believes that the Republican "den[ies] basic science" and is a tool of Big Oil and Gas.
Even in a state long considered the unregulated Wild West of campaign finance, the Pennsylvania megabucks plan by Steyer's NextGen Climate - part of a $100 million crusade to make climate change a "wedge issue" in seven key races - is unprecedented, and stunning in its scope. It may exceed - in both size and impact - the $10 million of Wolf's own dollars that propelled him to the Democratic nomination last month.
It will be interesting to see what kind of political impact this has. Wolf currently leads Corbett by 20 points or more in three different public opinion polls, so he probably doesn't need the help (and my hunch is that Steyer may shift most of his $100 million to closer races, like the Florida governor's race or Senate contests in Iowa and Michigan). It could backfire by giving Corbett -- who really seems pretty dead in the water right now -- a new attack line, that Wolf is a tool of rich outsiders who want to crush coal and fracking jobs in Pa. On the other hand, Steyer's NextGen Climate plans to spend a lot of the money on grassroots organizing, which could a) raise awareness about the politics of climate change and b) help Democrats re-take the legislature, by boosting turnout.
Should be an interesting fall around these parts.