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Tom Steyer ’79: green super PAC

A hundred million dollars, Tom Steyer ’79 told the New York Times this week, “would be a really cheap price to answer the generational challenge of the world.”

For Steyer, that generational challenge is climate change. The Times reports that he is planning to donate $50 million to NextGen Climate Action, a political organization he founded; its goal is to support candidates and policymakers who will “take bold action on climate change.” Steyer, a billionaire who retired in 2012 from Farallon Capital Management, is seeking to raise an additional $50 million from other donors, according to the Times, and the money will be spent on the 2014 elections. Steyer did not confirm the figures for the Times. (Calls to Steyer’s office were not returned.)

NextGen Climate Action comprises “a super PAC, a research organization, and a political advocacy nonprofit,” says the Times. Steyer has already been called a liberal counterbalance to the Koch brothers, billionaires who donate extensively to free-market causes.

The reaction from liberals is not all positive. Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, which works to curb spending in politics, told the Times that Steyer is one of a small number of Americans “attempting to use their enormous wealth to purchase government decisions.” Andy Kroll, a commentator for, argues that the rise of super PACs is “set to inflict real damage on our democracy.”

Others welcome the initiative. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) told Politico that Steyer will bring “balance” to a political debate influenced by “the Koch brothers and others trying to present a certain bent on our environment that I think is very destructive.” And quotes former vice president Al Gore: “We’re way beyond the time for softball.”

Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, have signed the Giving Pledge, making a public commitment to give away most of their fortune. They donated $25 million to Yale in 2011 for an Energy Sciences Institute on the West Campus.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Tom Steyer, climate change
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