Reports: Tom Steyer, George Soros Met With WH Climate Adviser

Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 05:58 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Billionaires Tom Steyer, an avid environmentalist hailed as "the liberal equivalent of the Koch brothers," and liberal investor George Soros met with President Barack Obama's climate adviser John Podesta earlier this year — days after Steyer committed to raising $100 million to elect environmentally friendly Democrats in 2014, reports say.

The February get-together focused on issues related to climate change, The Hill reports, adding that a Soros spokesman called the meeting "professional."

Also attending, according to White House visitor logs, was Michael Vachon, a top Soros lieutenant, the Washington Free Beacon reports.

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"They discussed a variety of topics," Vachon told E&E News, publisher of Greenwire, which first reported the meeting.

The Free Beacon quoted from the subscription-only Greenwire report that "opposing the Keystone XL pipeline has been one of the key pillars of Steyer's environmental agenda, and that issue may also have arisen at the meeting with Podesta," a longtime critic of Canadian oil sands development.

According to the Free Beacon, the Greenwire report noted that Podesta said he'd steer clear of the controversial Keystone decision when he first joined Obama's staff, and that the White House wouldn't comment on the meeting.

Federal law prohibits most federal employees from engaging in some political activities while on the job, but Scott Coffina, a former associate counsel to President George W. Bush, told Greenwire that Podesta is "at a level where he is allowed to engage in political activity while on duty," adding that a meeting to discuss "partisan political strategy, that's OK," the Free Beacon reported.

Podesta is former president of the Center for American Progress, whose board includes Steyer and to which Soros has donated, the Free Beacon noted.

White House visitor logs show Steyer also met with Podesta again in March, The Hill reports.

Politico reports that Steyer has visited the White House on at least 12 occasions since 2009 for meetings with top-level administration officials.

Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, was blasted last year by pro-Keystone Republicans for not disclosing his financial interests in the Canadian tar sands even as he voiced opposition to the Keystone project, The Washington Post reports.

His Farallon Capital Management firm — which he gave up two years ago — had invested in a large energy company, Kinder Morgan, that owned a pipeline connecting the Canadian tar sands to a Pacific port, The Post reports, adding that Steyer last year said his Kinder Morgan investments would be sold by the end of 2013.

House Speaker John Boehner also has criticized Steyer's big-money influence.

But environmentalists have hailed Steyer's financial support, reports Brown Political Review.

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"After years of inaction and public unawareness, the environmental movement has recently started to gain momentum, in no small part because of the unexpected and spectacular entrance onto the scene of a single person: Tom Steyer," the Review writes.

"Steyer, whose wealth and recent political involvement have caused many to herald him as the liberal equivalent of the Koch brothers, is positioning himself to play a highly influential role in the upcoming midterm elections."

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