Green billionaire combats Kochs with US mid-term funding.

Guardian: “The green billionaire Tom Steyer this week solidified his status as the leading patron of environmental causes in American politics, with the announcement that he had given nearly $56m to make climate change a top-tier issue in the midterm elections.”
“With just days to go until the elections, it was revealed that Steyer had poured an additional $15m of his personal fortune into his NextGen Climate Action Fund, raising his contributions to $55.9m, according toFederal Election Commission filings on Monday night.
The former hedge fund executive has now emerged as the biggest single donor of this election cycle – at least as far as publicly disclosed donations are concerned – and a favorite new punching bag for Republican opponents, a role previously reserved for Al Gore.
The ready cash could make Steyer the kingmaker of these elections – if his bets on candidates in seven key Senate and gubernatorial races come in.
It has already re-cast climate change as an election issue both now and in the 2016 presidential contest, argued Chris Lehane, a Democratic operative who is now NextGen’s chief strategist.
“We call 2014 a pivotal year for climate,” he said. “If you look around it’s clear that climate has emerged as a top -tier issue.”
Steyer is still nowhere near reaching the $100m he promised to inject into races in this election cycle, half of it from outside donors. But he has already assembled a campaign organisation that includes some of the country’s top operatives – and gained near-heroic status among environmental activists for his free-spending ways.
And he is apparently enough of a threat to Republicans to merit his own attack website, which labels Steyer a “man of too many contradictions” and comes adorned with a photo of a champagne-swilling Leonardo DiCaprio.
Steyer has also been accused of worsening the influence of money over politics – a Democratic equivalent of the conservative oil billionaire Koch brothers. And there have been reports he is using NextGen as a dry run for his own future political campaign, perhaps for senator or governor of California.
As Steyer himself has admitted, “climate change has not always been on my radar”. After a privileged upbringing on New York’s Upper East Side, Steyer spent 25 years building his own hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management, and amassing a personal fortune estimated at $2.6bn. Much of that wealth came from investments in coal and other fossil fuels,the New York Times reported.
But in 2010 he bankrolled a campaign to defeat a ballot initiative in California that would have blocked the state’s ambitious programme to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
In 2012, he sold his ownership stake in Farallon in order to campaign full-time on climate change, and instructed his employees to screen out holdings of tar sands, coal, oil and gas.
When Steyer jumped into the 2014 race, he was immediately adopted as something of a saviour by Democrats and environmental groups. Gore called him “Mr Tipping Point” in the fight against climate change. With two weeks to go, that remains to be seen.
The $56m in Next Gen contributions – though record-breaking – are only for disclosed funds, a pivotal distinction in an election which is believed to be awash in so-called “dark money”, or anonymous donations.
The Koch brothers’ network of groups is believed to be spending up to $300m this election cycle
$125m or more of which could be coming through their main political organisation, Americans for Prosperity. Steyer’s contributions have been focused on a handful of tight races for senate and governor where the extra cash could help tip the balance towards Democratic candidates.”