Billionaire Tom Steyer -- the 'Liberal Analogue of the Koch Brothers'

The newest celebrity in the liberal universe is billionaire Tom Steyer. In a story headlined "The Wrath of a Green Billionaire," Bloomberg Businesweek reporter Joshua Green explained he’s hailed as “a liberal analogue of the conservative Koch brothers, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, whose lavish support of free-market causes and political ruthlessness loom large in the liberal imagination.’‘

Steyer’s obsession is stopping global warming. “If you look at the 2012 campaign, climate change was like incest—something you couldn’t talk about in polite company,” he says. Naturally, this swagger reminds the Bloomberg-owned magazine of...well, Bloomberg:

So Steyer, 55, a major Democratic contributor, quit Farallon [Capital] to devote his time and much of his money to changing this reality. In doing so, he's joined an emerging class of billionaires -- including this magazine's owner, Michael Bloomberg and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg-who have forsaken the traditional approach of working through the political parties and instead jumped directly into the fray, putting their reputations and fortunes behind a cause.

When people ask about his occupation, Steyer says, “I actually tell them ‘professional pain in the ass.’ Before, I was only an amateur.”

After liberals couldn’t get a cap-and-trade bill through a Democrat-controlled Senate before the 2010 midterms, Green wrote “Steyer and many other Democrats preoccupied with climate change are convinced that only a smash-mouth, confrontational style of politics can save the planet. He subscribes to the analysis offered in a recent paper by Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol that the loss derived from Democrats’ naive faith that their best chance at climate legislation was cooperating with polluters on a grand bargain negotiated by Washington power brokers. The strategy failed to account for Republicans’ radicalization and use of the filibuster. And because environmental groups had neglected to organize, no grassroots pressure materialized when the legislation stalled.”

Notice that the radical environmentalists who hate the gasoline engine are somehow unlabeled as the story introduced the Republicans as radicalized.

The story underlines how leftists who hate billionaires intervening in politics grow mellow when they join their side. “I’m not happy about big money playing such an important role in political campaigns,” says Henry Waxman. “But I want to see a pushback, and we can’t unilaterally disarm. I’m glad someone like Tom is willing to spend.”

Green says the problem for liberals on climate change hasn’t been their funding. “What was missing was any conviction among voters that global warming is an urgent concern.” Reporters don’t usually say that out loud. They just quietly ignore the issue until their liberal friends push it into the spotlight, and then they ignore it again.

Steyer appeared on “The Daily Rundown” on MSNBC on April 23, and declared “I think that I'm very different from the Koch brothers in the sense that I have absolutely no personal interest in what happens except as a citizen of the United States. So whereas they're representing points of view that are in their personal monetary interests, I'm actually representing the citizens of the whole country in terms of their diffuse interests against concentrated economic interests that the Koch brothers represent.”

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis