Billionaire enviro-liberal Tom Steyer should thank his earth-healing, universalist, Less-Than-Supreme Being that the planet’s survival isn’t dependent on his business influence or political expenditures, because they have been massive flops.
Take, for example, “Risky Business,” his venture (along with figureheads Henry Paulson and Michael Bloomberg) introduced in late June to pressure businesses, investors and policymakers to account for vast planning costs for impending global warming effects in their financial reports. Initial media coverage of the contrived project made it appear that it would exert major influence in the corporate world. But while the scheme attempted to show intellectual rigor and nonpartisan analysis, Risky Business was easily revealed to be nothing more than another deeply biased construction to drive a political agenda.
A month after its introduction – accompanied by a New York Times op-ed by Paulson and interviews by Steyer and Bloomberg – and Risky Business was already fizzling. Now, two months later, it appears to be evaporating into irrelevance.
Steyer utilizes the staff from his nonprofit Next Generation to keep Risky Business alive and relevant, but the Web site has quickly gone dormant. The project’s blog featured just three posts in the month of July, when you’d think Steyer would want the big bucks he spent to create the report to get the most bang. Worse, the entries were nothing original – just links to op-eds written by Risky Business “risk committee” members Henry Cisneros, Robert Rubin and Donna Shalala.
That was followed in August with only a single entry for the entire month – a link to a Des Moines Register op-ed written by Cargill executive chairman Greg Page. Whether you accept the alarmist position on global warming or not, there is no dearth of Internet material that could be used to populate a blog with regurgitated information, as many Web sites (including Next Generation) do.
Even more surprising is the fact that Risky Business hasn’t issued any media notices since the release of the original report on June 24. Consider that Steyer (and perhaps Paulson and Bloomberg) probably spent six or seven figures on the production of the Risky Business report to build up policy pressure on public companies to adopt climate change measures. With such little activity on the media and Web fronts, no corporation is feeling any heat to do anything.
So that’s Steyer’s business effort – what about his campaign activism? There also we find weaknesses in influence and credibility. As NLPC mentioned a month ago, he pledged to raise $50 million from other donors to match his own $50 million in contributions to climate-conscious Democrat candidates, via his NextGen Climate Action Committee. Politico reported two weeks ago that only $1.7 million has come in, compared to the $11.6 million Steyer has delivered so far. The feeble response is illustrative more of an egomaniac with significantly more bluster than political muscle, but Steyer had an explanation.
“We have gotten a lot of people who I think would put in money alongside us as opposed to through us,” Steyer said at a conference in Aspen, Colo. “Because I think people like — particularly people when they think they’re spending a lot of money — like to feel as if they have some control over it, and if it’s their effort.”
That’s baloney, as there are PACs all over the place for wealthy liberals to give their money to – and they do. But they’re not giving it to NextGen.
The content and quality of the advertising Steyer/NextGen has produced may be giving their potential allies pause. So-called fact-checking projects (which mostly lean left) that examine political ads have given a number of NextGen ads negative marks for either stretching the truth or outright lying.
In January the Washington Post said a NextGen ad that opposed TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, by citing Chinese investment and claiming the oil would only benefit foreign countries, was “over the top.” The newspaper gave the ad its worst rating: “Four Pinocchios.”
“For all the jingoistic images, China at the moment is actually a small player in this game…,” the Post reported. “This ad does not even meet the minimal standards for such political attack ads. It relies on speculation, not facts, to make insinuations and assertions not justified by the reality.”
Last year NextGen attacked Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as he ran for governor, claiming that he planned to “eliminate all forms of birth control,” despite his repeated claims to the contrary. Campaign advertising watchdog Politifact said there was “no basis” to NextGen’s accusation and gave the ad a “pants on fire” score.
And last month NextGen and Steyer ran afoul again of Politifact’s analysis in ads that attacked Florida Gov. Rick Scott over energy (rated “half-true”) and Iowa Republican candidate for Senate Joni Ernst on taxes and sending jobs overseas (rated “false”).
“You’re handing a bat to your opponents to use squarely over your noggin,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, to the San Jose Mercury-News. “It sounds to me as if they need their own fact-checkers on staff.”
Steyer and NextGen so far have gone after Republican Senate candidates in Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Michigan, and also the incumbent Republican governors in Florida, Maine, and Pennsylvania. The one-sided partisanship in Steyer’s campaign contributions also undermines the claim of “nonpartisanship” behind Risky Business – the Republicans he has on board (Paulson, Olympia Snowe, George Shultz) are more like dupes than they are representative of political balance.
For all the money (yes, it’s still a lot) Steyer is pumping through Risky Business and NextGen to try to get his way on global warming policy, there sure has been a lot of waste and bumbling. He may see some of his candidates win, but it will be hard to see that he had anything to do with it.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.