Steyer-Backed Super PAC Targets Pa. Governor on Climate Change

Saturday, 19 Jul 2014 03:17 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Billionaire and climate change cheerleader Tom Steyer and the super PAC he backs are making a large push in several states this year against officials who do not support the fight against climate change, including in Pennsylvania, where his group has become heavily involved in the state's gubernatorial race.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has for years doubted climate change, including saying in May during an interview with an NPR-affiliated news site StateImpact that he believes the reality of climate change is "up for debate," reports The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Pennsylvania's economy depends largely on fossil fuels, including coal, and Corbett says he wants to make his state "the Texas of the natural gas boom," in reference to the state's growing oil and gas fracking industry.

NASA Expert: Global Cooling May Cause Massive Food Shortages

NextGen Climate says it wants to show voters how Corbett stands up "for powerful energy companies [who are significant contributors to his campaign] at the expense of Pennsylvania voters' best interests."

Last week, the PAC sent an information request for all correspondence between Corbett and oil and gas companies, including a demand to see his financial records. In addition, NextGen asked Corbett to "acknowledge that you have wronged the people of Pennsylvania by giving away the state's proverbial family jewels to the oil and gas industry and impose the kind of common-sense extraction tax that other states have required — in order to cut taxes and fund public schools."

Pennsylvania isn't the only state being targeted. NextGen is also turning its focus onto Senate and gubernatorial campaigns in Florida, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Maine, and Michigan, where officials have also not supported the fight against climate change.

NextGen has already released its first advertisement in Pennsylvania, claiming that Corbett has been given some $1.7 million in political contributions from the oil and gas industry, and has rewarded them with "a sweetheart deal on taxes that's costing Pennsylvania billions."

Steyer has also spoken out publicly against Pennsylvania in an op-ed for The Huffington Post, saying that the state's "low-income communities are disproportionately affected by asthma and often live in the shadow of the state’s biggest polluters."

Meanwhile, NextGen has pledged to raise some $100 million for the fall campaign fights, with Steyer pledging at least $50 million from his own personal accounts. However, NextGen would not specify how much is being targeted for Pennsylvania.

However, NextGen is having trouble reaching its $100 million goal, reports The Associated Press. 

The group has brought in less than $5 million from outside donors — including just $1.2 million for its super PAC, NextGen Climate Action Committee, which is able to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns. The rest of the funds have been donated to the group's nonprofit wing and are being used for advocacy work opposing the Keystone XL pipeline and on other projects.

But NextGen officials say the group plans to keep raising money and will concentrate on the races where candidates have major differences on the climate change issue, such as in Pennsylvania.

Steyer built his fortune through the ownership of the $20 billion hedge fund Farallon Capital Management. The global investment company has brought him a reported personal fortune of more than $1.5 billion, with much of the money coming from investing in Indonesian and Australian coal projects.

However, in 2012, he said he was stepping down from the company, saying he wasn't comfortable with being at a firm that invests in all sectors, including "tar sands and oil," although he reportedly has yet to divest himself of all of his fossil fuel investments.

His investments have led some critics to question Steyer's motives, reports The Post Gazette, including Corbett Campaign Communications Director Chris Pack, who called Steyer a hypocrite "who made his money on coal but is waging a war on coal because it will benefit him financially.”

NASA Expert: Global Cooling May Cause Massive Food Shortages

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania officials are fighting back against Steyer's efforts. The state's energy executive, Patrick Henderson, responded to NextGen's commercial and information request with a formal letter, saying that "no one has done more to protect the environment than Gov. Corbett."

He cited laws requiring pipeline safety standards and rules for distancing drilling operations from streams and other water sources.

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