Tom Steyer

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Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Steyer in 2019
Thomas Fahr Steyer

(1957-06-27) June 27, 1957 (age 62)
EducationYale University (BA)
Stanford University (MBA)
Net worthUS$1.6 billion (July 2019)[1]
Political partyDemocratic
Kat Taylor (m. 1986)
FamilyHume Steyer (brother)
Jim Steyer (brother)

Thomas Fahr Steyer (born June 27, 1957) is an American billionaire hedge fund manager, philanthropist, environmentalist, liberal activist, and fundraiser.[2] He is a candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries.[3]

Steyer is the founder and former co-senior managing partner of Farallon Capital and the co-founder of Onecalifornia Bank, which became (through merger) 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. In 2012, he sold his stake in and retired from Farallon Capital. Switching his focus to politics and the environment, he launched NextGen America, a non-profit organization that supports progressive positions on climate change, immigration, health care, and education.[4][5]

Steyer served on the Board of Trustees at Stanford University[6] from 2012 to 2017.

Early life and education[edit]

Tom Steyer was born in 1957 in Manhattan.[7] 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,[8][9] and was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.[10] His father was Jewish, and his mother was Episcopalian.[7]

Steyer attended the Buckley School and Phillips Exeter Academy. He 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 College soccer team. Steyer received his MBA from Stanford Business School, where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar.[7][11] He has served on the Stanford University Board of Trustees.[12]


After graduating from Yale, Steyer began his professional career at Morgan Stanley in 1979.[2][7] After two years at Morgan Stanley, he attended Stanford Business School.[7] Steyer worked at Goldman Sachs from 1983 to 1985 as an associate in the risk arbitrage division, where he was involved in mergers and acquisitions.[7] 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.[13][14] Steyer made his fortune running Farallon, which was managing $20 billion by the time he left the company.[15] Steyer was known for taking high risks on distressed assets within volatile markets.[7]

In October 2012, Steyer stepped down from his position at Farallon in order to focus on advocating for alternative energy.[16][17] Steyer decided to dispose of his carbon-polluting investments in 2012, although critics say he did not dispose of them fast enough, and noted that the lifespan of the facilities he funded would extend through 2030.[18] A 2014 New York Times article said coal-mining companies which Farallon invested in or lent money to under Steyer had increased their coal production by 70 million tons annually since receiving money from Farallon, and that Steyer remained invested in the Maules Creek coal mine.[18] Prior to Steyer leaving Farallon, a student activist group called UnFarallon criticized the company for investments in companies with anti-environmental policies.[7] In 2016, some critics noted that Farallon had also invested in private prisons while Steyer was leading the hedge fund.[19] According to SEC filings, Steyer was at the helm as the hedge fund purchased nearly $90 million of Corrections Corporation of America stock (5.5% of the company's outstanding shares).[20] After leaving Farallon, Steyer hosted a two-day think-tank titled the 'Big Think Climate Meeting' to discuss how to address climate change.[21]


In 2006, Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, founded OneRoof, a business designed to bring technology to rural India.[22]

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.[23][24]

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.[17][25]

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.[26][27]

Steyer and Taylor created the TomKat Ranch in Pescadero, California, near Half Moon Bay.[28] The ranch is meant to research and demonstrate a sustainable way of doing agriculture.[29] 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.[30] Around 2011, Steyer joined the board of Next Generation, a non-profit intending to tackle children's issues and the environment. In 2013, Steyer founded NextGen Climate, an environmental advocacy nonprofit and political action committee.[7]

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.[31]

Political activity[edit]

Steyer is a leading Democratic Party activist and fundraiser. In 1983, he worked on Walter Mondale's presidential campaign.[32] He raised money for Bill Bradley in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.[33][34]

An early supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008, Steyer became one of Barack Obama's most prolific fundraisers. Steyer served as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 2004 and 2008.[35] Steyer has been a member of the Hamilton Project[36] and has been 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]

After the Obama victory in 2008, Steyer was considered for appointment as Secretary of Treasury. Jim Steyer, Tom's brother, told Men's Journal that Obama and his advisors would regret having chosen someone else, due to his expertise.[7] In January 2013, rumors briefly arose that Steyer might be named as a replacement for Energy Secretary Steven Chu.[39] Asked whether he would accept such an appointment, Steyer said he would.[40]

Steyer has been compared with and contrasted with the Koch brothers, billionaire businessmen who engage in extensive political activity, and has been viewed as a Koch adversary, although Steyer's total reported net worth is but a small fraction of that of the Koch brothers or other billionaire political activists, donors, and fundraisers (such as Michael Bloomberg and George Soros).[41][42][43]

Ballot measures[edit]

In 2010, Steyer joined former Secretary of State, San Francisco-based George Shultz, to co-chair the No on Prop. 23 campaign, the measure on the November 2010 ballot concerning California's environmental legislation, AB32. He donated $5 million to the campaign, which defeated Proposition 23.[44][45][46]

In 2012, Steyer was the leading sponsor of Proposition 39 on the 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 $29.6 million, saying that he could wait no longer for the change.[47][48][49]

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". Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, said that the level of giving was unprecedented for an individual donor.[49] Some critics called the initiative an ineffective jobs stimulus, while Steyer labeled it a success for closing a corporate loophole.[50]


In 2012, Steyer hosted a fundraiser at his home for President Obama. At a private meeting, Steyer, along with fifteen other top donors, reportedly pressed the President regarding the Keystone pipeline, which Steyer opposed. 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.[51]

Democratic National Convention speech[edit]

Steyer gave a speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention,[34] saying 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 Republican presidential nominee Mitt 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."[52]


Anti-Keystone rally[edit]

In February 2013, Steyer spoke at an anti-Keystone XL Pipeline 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 Steyer was dissuaded by his brother Jim.[21]

NextGen America[edit]

In 2013, Steyer founded NextGen Climate (now NextGen America), an environmental advocacy nonprofit and political action committee.[7] NextGen Climate provided the environmentalist movement with significant capital and political influence.[18] Steyer spent almost $74 million on the 2014 elections.[35][53]

In October 2017, NextGen America donated grants totaling $2.3-million to eight national immigration law service organizations, including the University of California Immigrant Legal Services Center, the Immigration Law Clinic at UC Davis School of Law, UC Hastings Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Center for Community Change, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.[54]

Electoral campaign activity[edit]

In 2014, Steyer funded political campaigns to advocate for the election of at least nine candidates and to influence climate change policy through NextGen Climate.[55] Those races included helping elect Ed Markey of Massachusetts over Stephen Lynch to the Senate in a special election in 2013.[35] Steyer spent a reported $1.8 million attacking Lynch, including for a plane Steyer paid to fly over a Boston Red Sox game with a banner that read, "Steve Lynch for Oil Evil Empire".[21][56]

Steyer supported Democrat Terry McAuliffe's successful 2013 campaign for governor of Virginia through his NextGen Climate Action, contributing funds for paid media (such as television advertisements) and get-out-the-vote efforts.[57] Steyer also supported Democrats in Senate races in Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire and Michigan and in Gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Maine, and Florida.[58] 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.[59]

In June 2014, Steyer said he planned to get involved in California legislative races, targeting three to four races in each house of the Legislature in a bid to affect climate change policy.[60] The Guardian reported in 2014 that Steyer had become the single largest donor in American politics and is the leading advocate of environmental issues.[61]

Steyer spent about $67 million of his personal fortune in the 2014 midterm elections and had a 40% success rate: of the seven Senate and gubernatorial candidates NextGen Climate supported, three won their races.[35][62]


In April 2015, Steyer testified before the California Legislature in favor of a greenhouse-gas reduction bill.[63] In August 2015, Steyer was the guest of honor at the California Democratic Party headquarters to discuss bills to cut gasoline use in half by 2030, although Steyer did not commit to spending large sums of money to support the bills.[64]

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.[65] The message was reportedly targeted at Hillary Clinton, who had yet to outline an environmental policy. It was suggested that this was a strategic move to secure a political alliance with Clinton.[66]


Steyer raised money for Hillary Clinton,[29] and hosted a fundraiser on her behalf at his Burlingame home.[67][68] Steyer contributed $87,057,853 in funds exclusively to Democratic Party candidates during the 2016 election cycle.[69][70]

Trump impeachment campaign[edit]

Beginning in October 2017, Steyer spent around $10 million for a television ad campaign advocating the impeachment of President Donald Trump, and more on a digital ad campaign to call for Trump's impeachment.[71][72] In the ad, Steyer identifies himself only as an "American citizen" and alleges that Trump "brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice at the FBI and, in direct violation of the Constitution, has taken money from foreign governments and threatened to shut down news organizations that report the truth." Trump responded by calling Steyer "wacky and totally unhinged."[73][74]

The Need to Impeach campaign led to speculation that Steyer was planning a run for California Governor or California Senator in 2018, though he did not do so.[75] In March 2018, Steyer launched a 30-city town hall tour[76] and, going into the fall election season, the campaign had amassed close to 6 million petition signatures.[77]

Potential gubernatorial bid[edit]

In 2015, the 4 reported that Steyer is "keeping alive a possible bid for governor in 2018."[78] In early November 2016, Steyer told KQED's The California Report, "I hadn't decided. I thought Hillary [Clinton] would win. But I wanted to get the facts before I made a decision. My thinking has changed. We're in a very tough spot. And I'm damned if I'm not going to fight about it."[79] Six months later, in May 2017, it was reported that Steyer was testing the waters for the California governor race by fielding a poll that tested his strengths and weaknesses.[80][81] On January 8, 2018, Steyer announced he would not run in the 2018 California gubernatorial election.[82]

2020 presidential campaign[edit]

Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer 2020 logo (black text).svg
Campaign2020 United States presidential election (Democratic Party primaries)
CandidateTom Steyer
AffiliationDemocratic Party
Key peopleHeather Hargreaves (campaign manager)[83]

Steyer's 2020 presidential campaign of began on July 9, 2019, when he stated that he would be running in the Democratic primaries in an online campaign video posted to Twitter.[3][84] Steyer had previously stated in a January, 2019 Iowa speech that he would not run for president.[85] [86] He has committed himself to spending $100 million in the race.[87] Steyer made the largest ad buy in the Democratic primary so far (as of mid July 2019), at $1.4 million.[88]

Views and positions[edit]

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.[89] Steyer officially left Farallon in 2012.[90] 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 bitumen 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.[21] In September 2013, Steyer appeared in a series of commercials in opposition to the proposed pipeline.[21]

In a November 2015 interview, Steyer described the Obama administration's decision to reject the Keystone pipeline as "fantastic".[91]

Campaign finance[edit]

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 not to take a direct role.[92] He has said that he opposes Citizens United v. FEC, 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.[clarification needed][92]


In 2008, Steyer and Taylor gave $41 million to create the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University. Part of the Precourt Institute of Energy, it is 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 power grids' ability to support future renewable energy technologies.[93][94]

In October 2013, Steyer launched a bipartisan initiative to combat climate change along with then-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.[21] The initiative, called the Risky Business Project, focuses on quantifying and publicizing the economic risks of climate change in the United States. Bloomberg, Paulson, and Steyer serve as co-chairs.[95] The Project has published three reports—a National Report in June 2014, a Midwest Report in January 2015, and a California Report in April 2015.[96][97][98][99]

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.[100]


In an interview in October 2017, Steyer said that he was in favor of raising personal taxes. He said that upper-income people in the United States had done "disproportionately well" at the expense of working families.[101] Steyer called one version of a 2017 Republican tax reform proposal a "thinly veiled reverse Robin Hood".[102]

5 Rights[edit]

In November 2018, in a full-page USA Today ad, Steyer outlined 5 non-partisan issue areas on which he said the Democrats should campaign, and which "represent essential freedoms that should be guaranteed for all Americans": voting rights protections, a clean environment, a complete education, a living wage and good health. [103][104][105] Steyer's latest campaign further fueled speculation about a 2020 presidential bid, which included support from a draft movement.[106]

Awards and honors[edit]

Steyer has received a number of awards and honors for his environmental work, including the Phillip Burton Public Service Award of Consumer Watchdog (2011),[63][107] the Environmental Leadership Award of the California League of Conservation Voters (2012),[108] the Environmental Achievement Award of the Environmental Law Institute (2013),[109] the Land Conservation Award of the Open Space Institute (2015),[110] and the Advocate Award of the Environmental Advocates of New York (2016). He received Equality California's 2015 Humanitarian Award, "for his work advancing progressive causes that benefit the LGBT community."[111]

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 Reverend Richard Thayer, a Presbyterian minister, and Rabbi Charles Familant performed the ceremony.[8] Steyer and his wife have four children, Samuel Taylor ("Sam"), Charles Augustus ("Gus"), Evelyn Hoover ("Evi"), and Henry Hume ("Henry").[14] His wife was 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."[112]

Steyer has two brothers: Hume Steyer, an attorney in New York City, and Jim Steyer, an attorney, author, and Stanford University professor.[113][7]

Steyer has a net worth of $1.6 billion.[1] Men's Journal mentioned the modest aspects of his lifestyle, noting that he owns an "outdated hybrid Honda Accord" and eschews luxury items such as expensive watches.[7]

In his late 30s, Steyer had "a revelation" and began an involvement in the Episcopal Church, the religion of his mother (his father was a non-practicing Jew).[7] He has stated that during this time he became much more interested in religion and theology. This new interest reportedly galvanized his political advocacy.[21]


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