Can Thomas Steyer Make Climate Change a Key Issue in the 2014 Elections?

San Francisco-based hedge fund billionaire Thomas Steyer announced today that he is looking to spend $100 million to make climate change a key issue in the 2014 elections. Steyer is putting up $50 million himself, and seeking other like-minded donors to join his efforts, which will be run through his group, NextGen Climate Action, and likely use ad buys to target elected officials that support the Keystone-XL pipeline.

This new push complements Steyer's growing philanthropy on climate change, which we've been following closely. Steyer clearly isn't afraid of a fight, and has given heavily to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, as we reported here.

Steyer's record of big spending on environmental issues dates back years, and includes a $40 million gift to Stanford, where he received his MBA, to create the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy.

The $50 million he's pledged to spend in 2014 shows just how deep his climate-funding pockets are, which suggests that bigger philanthropic giving may lie ahead. 

Steyer clearly understands the value of policy advocacy, and supporting candidates that are sympathetic to his cause. He’s been a Democratic donor and fundraiser since working on Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign in 1983, and in 2010, donated $5 million, the largest single contribution in the effort to defeat California’s Prop 23, a ballot initiative that would have suspended a number California’s environmental laws.

More recently, Steyer spent $11 million to help Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in his race against Ken Cuccinelli, painting Cuccinelli as extreme on environmental issues. This time around, he is eyeing Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Iowa’s Senate race as potential places to put his money, in hopes of putting more people in office that are inclined to support environmental issues.

While most of Steyer’s massive donation will go toward media buys, with a pledge of $100 million, there’s definitely room for non-profit media groups and grassroots advocacy organizations to get in on the action.