Tom Steyer

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Tom Steyer
SteyerHeadshot.jpeg
Born Thomas Fahr Steyer
(1957-06-27) June 27, 1957 (age 59)
New York City, New York U.S.
Alma mater Yale University
Stanford Business School
Net worth IncreaseUS$1.6 billion
(June 2016)[1]
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Kathryn Ann Taylor
(1986–present)
Children 4
Website Official website

Thomas Fahr "Tom" Steyer (born June 27, 1957) is an American hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and environmentalist.[2]

Steyer is the founder and former co-senior managing partner of Farallon Capital and the co-founder of Beneficial State Bank, an Oakland-based community development bank.[2] Farallon Capital manages $20 billion in capital for institutions and high-net-worth individuals. The firm’s institutional investors include college endowments and foundations.[2] Since 1986, Steyer has been a partner and member of the Executive Committee at Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based $8 billion private equity firm.

In 2010, Steyer and his wife signed The Giving Pledge to donate half of their fortune to charity during their lifetime.[3] Since leaving Farallon in 2012, he has become a leading figure in environmental causes, being among the top donors of the 2014 election cycle, and an environmental advisor to the Obama administration.

Steyer is on the board of Next Generation, a non-profit that intends to tackle children's issues and the environment.[4][5] Steyer is NextGen Climate's founder.[6][7] He serves on the Board of Trustees at Stanford University[8] and is active in political campaign fundraising.

Early life and education[edit]

Tom Steyer was born in Manhattan in 1957.[9] His mother, Marnie (née Fahr), was a teacher of remedial reading at the Brooklyn House of Detention, and his father, Roy Henry Steyer, was a partner in the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell.[10][11] Steyer attended the Buckley School, Philips Exeter Academy and later graduated from Yale University summa cum laude in economics and political science, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was captain of the Yale soccer team. Steyer received his MBA from Stanford Business School, where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar.[12][9] He has been involved with the university and has served on the Board of Trustees.[13]

Career[edit]

After graduating from Yale, Steyer began his professional career at Morgan Stanley in 1979.[9][2] After two years at Morgan Stanley, he was accepted to Harvard Business School, but instead attended Stanford Business School.[9] Steyer worked at Goldman Sachs from 1983-85 as an associate in the risk arbitrage division, where he was involved in mergers and acquisitions.[9] He later became a partner and member of the Executive Committee at Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based private equity firm.

In January 1986, Steyer founded Farallon Capital, an investment firm headquartered in San Francisco, California.[14][15] Steyer made his fortune running Farallon, which was managing $20 billion dollars by the time he left the company.[16] Steyer was known for taking high risks on distressed assets within volatile markets.[9]

In October 2012, Steyer stepped down from his position at Farallon in order to focus on advocating for alternative energy.[17][18] Steyer decided to dispose of his carbon-polluting investments in 2012, although critics say he did not dispose of them fast enough. After leaving Farallon, Steyer hosted a two-day think-tank titled the 'Big Think Climate Meeting' to discuss how to address climate change.[19]

Philanthropy[edit]

In 2006, Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, founded OneRoof, a business designed to bring technology to rural India.[20] In 2007, Steyer and Taylor founded Beneficial State Bank, a community development bank, for the purpose of providing commercial banking services to underserved Bay Area businesses, nonprofits and individuals.[21][22] Steyer and Taylor put up $22.5 million to start the bank and create the One PacificCoast Foundation to engage in charitable and educational activities, provide lending support, investments and other services for disadvantaged communities and community service organizations in California. [23][18]

In August 2010, Steyer and his wife signed onto The Giving Pledge, an initiative of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. The pledge urges individuals and families to give at least half their wealth to charitable causes during their lifetime.[24][25]

Steyer and Taylor created the TomKat Ranch in Pescadero, California, near Half Moon Bay.[26] The ranch is meant to research and demonstrate a sustainable way of doing agriculture.[27] The ranch's activities include underwriting healthy food programs and co-producing an independent film, La Mission, starring Benjamin Bratt, about San Francisco's Mission neighborhood.[28]

Circa 2011, Steyer joined the board of Next Generation, a non-profit intending to tackle children's issues and the environment.[4] In 2013, Steyer founded NextGen Climate, an environmental advocacy nonprofit and political action committee.[9]

In August 2015, Steyer launched the Fair Shake Commission on Income Inequality and Middle Class Opportunity, which was intended to advocate policies for promoting income equality.[29]

Political activism[edit]

Steyer is a leading Democratic activist and fundraiser. In 1983, he worked on Walter Mondale's presidential campaign.[30] He raised money for Bill Bradley in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. An early supporter of Hillary Clinton for president, Steyer became one of Barack Obama’s most prolific fundraisers. Steyer served as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 2004 and 2008, and has been a member of the Hamilton Project since 2005.[2] Steyer, one of the backers of Greener Capital, has been accused of reaping benefits from the anti-oil policies of the Obama administration.[31][32] In January 2013, rumors briefly arose that Steyer might be named as a replacement for Energy Secretary Steven Chu.[33] Asked whether he would accept such an appointment, Steyer said yes.[34]

Steyer is seen as an adversary to some of the political activities of the Koch brothers.[35][36]

Steyer is involved with the Democracy Alliance, a network of progressive donors whose membership in the group requires them to donate at least $200,000 a year to recommended organizations.[37][38]

Steyer co-chairs a group called Risky Business that raises awareness of the projected economic impact of climate change.[39]

California electoral vote resolution (2007)[edit]

In 2007, Chris Lehane, a former Clinton and Gore operative, approached Steyer about helping fund the opposition to a GOP proposal to change electoral-vote rules in California, funded largely by Paul Singer. Steyer spent nearly $1 million and won.[9]

Treasury Secretary candidacy (2008)[edit]

After the Obama victory in 2008, Steyer was considered for Secretary of Treasury. Jim Steyer told Mens Journal that Obama and his advisors would regret having chosen someone else, due to his expertise.[9]

No on Prop 23[edit]

Steyer donated $2.5 million and pledged to contribute $2.5 million more to the No on Prop. 23 campaign, the measure on the November 2010 ballot concerning California's environmental legislation, AB32. Steyer joined former Secretary of State and Republican George Shultz, to co-chair the No on Prop. 23 campaign.[40][41]

Steyer was reportedly "peeved" that out-of-state activists were backing a California measure, and was convinced that passage would hurt California's environment and economy. Steyer described "stepping up" and donating $5 million - the largest sum donated - and driving to people's homes to campaign. Steyer's political emergence was a success and the proposition was defeated.[42]

DNC speech[edit]

Steyer gave a speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He commented that the election was “a choice about whether to go backward or forward. And that choice is especially stark when it comes to energy.” Steyer said that Romney would take no action to reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels; rather, he said he would increase it. Steyer went on to support Obama's policies, which he described as investments to "make us energy independent and create thousands of jobs.”[43]

Prop 39[edit]

Steyer was the leading sponsor of Proposition 39 on the 2012 ballot in California. Its purpose was to close a loophole that allowed multi-state corporations to pay taxes out of state, mandating that they pay in California. Steyer contributed $21.9 million, saying that he could wait no longer for the change.[44][45] Steyer spent over $30 million on the measure.[46]

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, said that the level of giving was unprecedented: "We’ve seen companies giving that much, and unions and PACs that have a lot at stake giving $10, $20 million in an election, but you didn’t see that so much for individual donors.”[44]

While supporters of Steyer's effort said it would “help break the partisan gridlock in Sacramento,” critics objected that “the increasing involvement of rich individuals perverts the original intent of the initiatives.[44] The passage of Prop 39 was described as “a $1 billion corporate tax increase that somehow slipped under the radar” and a huge political story that somehow went unnoticed. It was noted that the backers' strategy was to eliminate political opposition before it could materialize. Tom Steyer added $30 million into the Yes on Proposition 39 campaign, warning opponents that “it would be impossible to wage an opposition campaign on the cheap.”[47][48]

In addition to benefiting out-of-state corporations, Prop. 39 compelled corporations to fund green projects. Supposedly, the bill forces corporations to use roughly half of their out-of-state revenues for green projects, and the rest to state taxes. Although the initiative sought to generate $500 million in revenues and create thousands of jobs, it has been criticized for failing both goals, widely missing its goals and much of the revenue actually collected being bogged down in bureaucracy. The bill created 1,700 jobs over three years, while energy saved could not be calculated. While critics called the initiative an ineffective jobs stimulus, Steyer labeled it a success for closing a corporate loophole.[49]

Obama fundraiser (2012)[edit]

In 2012, Steyer hosted a fundraiser at his home for President Obama. At the event, he reportedly pressed the President regarding the Keystone pipeline. Steyer, along with fifteen other top donors reportedly hammered President Obama about the pipeline in a private meeting. Obama was said to be supportive of Steyer's views but reluctant to put his full weight behind any initiatives without better proof. Steyer was critical of Obama's decision to keep an energy initiative as a low priority.[46]

Washington Mall speech (2012)[edit]

In February 2013, Steyer spoke at an anti-Keystone rally on the Washington Mall organized by Bill McKibben and attended by tens of thousands. McKibben asked Steyer to join the protest by tying himself to the White House gate and getting arrested, but was dissuaded by his brother.[46]

CE Action Committee and Massachusetts Senate election (2013)[edit]

Steyer founded the CE Action Committee, to which he donated $1.8 million. It helped elect Ed Markey of Massachusetts to the Senate in a special election in 2013. [50] Steyer spent a reported $1.8 million attacking Markey's opponent, Stephen Lynch, using similar strategies he had used in California politics.[46]

Steyer demanded Lynch renounce support for the Keystone pipeline or he would muster all the opposition possible. Lynch dismissed Steyer's threats and criticized him for involving himself in an election where both candidates had chosen to avoid PAC funding. In retaliation, Steyer paid for a plane to fly over a Boston Red Sox game with a banner that read “Steve Lynch for Oil Evil Empire.”[46]

2013 Virginia gubernatorial election[edit]

Steyer supported the campaign of Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the 2013 Virginia Gubernatorial race through his NextGen Climate Action political committee. This support consisted primarily of releasing ads meant to portray McAuliffe's rival, Ken Cuccinelli, as extreme on environmental issues, and in Get out the vote efforts.[51]

Climate change initiative (2013)[edit]

In October 2013, Steyer launched a bipartisan initiative to combat climate change along with Michael Bloomberg and Henry Paulson.[46]

Founding of Next Generation (2013)[edit]

In 2013 Steyer founded Next Generation, aka NextGen Climate Action or NextGen Climate, a non-profit that, according to one source, is dedicated to educating youth on environmental issues. Another source says that he founded it to fight climate change. As of November 2014 he had personally supplied over 80% of NextGen's funds.[50]

Steyer's founding of NextGen Climate, provided the environmentalist movement with never before seen capital and political influence.[52] He tried to get other millionaires to donate a total of $50 million to NextGen, but raised less than $4 million.[50] Steyer spent almost $74 million on the 2014 elections, more than anyone else in the country. He donated the vast majority of those funds, nearly $67 million, through NextGen.[50]

He gave $5 million in 2014 to the Democratic Senate Majority PAC.[50]

NextGen's success has been varied by observers. Some note that only seven NextGen backed candidate won across the country, while Steyer himself states that climate change has become one of the most important issues for the country.[53]

2014 political influence[edit]

In 2014, Steyer committed to funding political campaigns in at least seven states to influence climate change policy through his PAC, NextGEN Climate.[54] In June, Steyer said he planned to get involved in California legislature to affect climate change policy by targeting three to four races in each house of the Legislature.[55] In the summer, he founded a political action committee in Florida, leading a major investment in the Gubernatorial race. Steyer cited Florida's pivotal role in the 2016 presidential election and its geographic position, which makes it highly vulnerable to climate change, as reasons for his focus on the state.[56]

However, though spending $57 million of his personal fortune, he and his organization were about 40% successful, as of the seven Senate and governors’ candidates NextGEN Climate supported, three won their races.[57]

Asked in a November 2014 interview why he invests his money into elections rather than philanthropic organizations, Steyer stated that the price of inaction is too high to not take a direct role.[50]

He has said that he opposes Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate donations to super PACs, but since climate change is urgent he will take necessary actions to provide funding nonetheless.[50]

The Guardian reported in 2014 that Steyer had become the single largest donor in American politics and is the leading advocate of environmental issues. Due to his financing, environmental issues have become the foremost issue even in the 2016 elections.[58] The Wall Street Journal claimed that Senate Democrats were now loyal to Steyer due to his immense funding and reported that they were more willing to lose control of the Senate than reject Steyer's initiatives.[59]

Testimony on greenhouse-gas bill (2015)[edit]

In April 2015, Steyer testified before the California legislature in favor of a greenhouse-gas reduction bill.[60]

Relationship to Hillary Clinton (2015)[edit]

In July 2015, Steyer called on 2016 candidates to develop strategic plans to provide the United States with at least 50% of its energy from clean sources by 2030. The message was reportedly targeted at Hillary Clinton, who had yet to outline an environmental policy. Steyer would later host Clinton at his San Francisco home for a fundraiser.[61]

In July 2015, Steyer was noted to have taken a less severe stance against Hillary Clinton on climate issues, since the latter had not taken such hard-line stances as Steyer had. It was suggested that this was a strategic move to secure a political alliance with Clinton.[62]

Climate change bills (2015)[edit]

In August 2015, Steyer was the guest of honor at the California Democratic Party headquarters to discuss a bill to cut gasoline use in half by 2030, although his support for such a bill was said to be lackluster.[63]

Gasoline prices (2015)[edit]

Steyer has been an outspoken critic of California's gas prices. It has been suggested that such criticisms are signals he will run for governor in 2018 and is establishing a rapport with average Californians.[64]

Keystone Pipeline[edit]

After holding several conversations in the summer of 2012 with environmental writer Bill McKibben, Steyer decided to focus much of his attention on the Keystone Pipeline. That October, Steyer officially left Farallon. He was criticized by some Republicans for attacking the pipeline even though he himself held some investments in the fossil-fuel industry, including stock in Kinder Morgan, which had its own pipeline connecting the Canadian tar sands to a port on the Pacific, which could be seen as a rival to the Keystone pipeline. Steyer promised to fully unload his holdings there within a year.[46]

In September 2013, Steyer appeared in a series of commercials in opposition to the proposed pipeline.[46] Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) argued on C-SPAN in March 2014 that Steyer’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline was founded in Farallon's investment in Kinder Morgan and its competing Trans-Mountain Pipeline System.[65]

In a November 2015 interview, Steyer described the Obama administration's decision to reject the Keystone pipeline as “fantastic.”[66]

2016 political influence[edit]

Steyer has raised millions of dollars to confront climate change and has raised money for Hillary Clinton at his home in San Francisco.[67] After one of the 2016 Republican presidential debates, Steyer stated, "The Republican candidates haven't presented a plan to address climate change — and so those candidates still aren't ready to be president".[68] In the 2016 presidential election cycle, NextGen Climate has advocated for candidates to endorse a 50% renewable energy goal by 2030 through ad campaigns.[68][69] Steyer is reportedly keeping a possible run for governor on the table, while planning to attempt to force Republicans to address climate change in the coming 2016 elections.[70]

Steyer and the Koch brothers[edit]

Steyer has been compared with and contrasted to his fellow billionaires, the Koch brothers.[71] Many Democrats view Steyer as the left's answer to the Kochs.[60][72] Steyer has been critical of the Kochs, seeking to distinguish himself from them.[9][73]

Environmentalism[edit]

Steyer is responsible for funding the creation of the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University, part of the Precourt Institute of Energy.[74] In 2008, Steyer and Taylor gave $41 million to create the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University, focused on the development of affordable renewable energy technologies and promotion of public policies to make renewable energy more accessible. Projects included the creation of lighter, less toxic, and more durable batteries, and an analysis of the then-current the power grids’ ability to support future renewable energy technologies. [75]

Santa Monica Consumer Watchdog awarded him its Phillip Burton Public Service Award in 2011.[60]

In 2015, Steyer signed on to Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Coalition. The goal of the coalition is to jumpstart the demand and availability of green energy sources.[76]

Controversies[edit]

Legal problems at Farallon[edit]

In the 1990s, Farallon was the target of legal action from the Justice Department for allegedly using government resources to influence post-Soviet economic policies in Russia that would have benefitted Farallon. Farallon was also involved in a 2010 deal to sell a stake in a Russian oil company, Geotech Oil Services, to Volga Group, owned by Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko, who has intimate Putin ties. Four years later, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it would target Timchenko and Volga with sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for the invasion of Crimea.[46]

UnFarallon[edit]

In 2004, Steyer was criticized by UnFarallon, a group of student activists at Yale who, having discovered that much of Yale's endowment was in Steyer's fund. The protest soon spread to Stanford, which also had millions invested with Farallon. The protest was against Steyer's supposed investing in companies with anti-labor and anti-environmental policies.[9]

UnFarallon was especially concerned about Farallon’s partnership with Yale in Vaca Partners, which planned to sell water from an aquifer below a 100,000-acre Colorado ranch which Vaca had bought in the mid-1990s. Locals and environmental groups charged that the venture would destroy the local ecosystem. Ballot initiatives intended to aid Vaca's efforts were defeated, after which Farallon sold the ranch at a profit to the Nature Conservancy.[77]

UnFarallon also targeted Farallon for its Russia activities.[77]

Farallon and coal[edit]

A July 2014 article in the New York Times, headlined “Aims of Donor Are Shadowed by Past in Coal,” detailed several examples of Farallon investing in coal. In addition, it was learned that even after their divestment, Farallon-funded coal projects in places like Indonesia and China would continue. Environmentalists were disappointed by the revelations and GOP leaders called it a blow to Steyer's credibility.[52]

One report noted that Farallon's involvement in coal was widely unknown due to it occurring almost entirely outside of North America. It was noted that in areas Farallon invested in coal, the coal industries were even expanding.[78]

Oregon scandal (Clean Energy Development Center)[edit]

In February 2015, the Free Beacon reported that top Steyer advisers aided an environmental group, largely financed by Steyer, that is at the center of a scandal. The group, the Clean Energy Development Center, was alleged to have made undisclosed payments to Governor John Kitzhaber’s fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. Steyer had donated millions to help pay a salary to Hayes, which could implicate him in the scandal.[79][80]

Charges of hypocrisy[edit]

Steyer has been widely criticized for a supposed hypocrisy, with critics claiming his environmental policy is meant for financial gain and that his life style does not align with his public policies.[78]

When challenged in a January 2015 interview on his hypocrisy about money in politics, Steyer insisted that he was acting differently by providing funding transparently.[81]

Personal life[edit]

In August 1986, he married Kathryn Ann Taylor. She is a graduate of Harvard College and earned a J.D./M.B.A. from Stanford University. The Rev. Richard Thayer, a Presbyterian minister, and Rabbi Charles Familant performed the ceremony.[10] Steyer and his wife have four children.[42] His wife is on the President's Council for the United Religions Initiative whose purpose is to "promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings."[82]

Steyer is the brother of attorney, author, and Stanford University professor Jim Steyer.[83]

Profiles of Steyer often mention the modest aspects of his lifestyle. He owns an "outdated hybrid Honda Accord" and eschews luxury items such as expensive watches.[9] Profiles also note his combativeness: “With his square jaw and boxer's nose, Steyer has the disposition of an Irish pugilist, an aggressive financier animated by a sporting esprit de combat.”[9]

Steyer is worth $1.6 billion.[1]

In his late 30s, Steyer had “a revelation” and began an involvement in the Episcopalian church.[9] He has stated that during this time he became much more interested in religion, as well as theology as a whole. This new interest also galvanized his political advocacy.[46]

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