Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer is building a “digital army” to impeach President Donald Trump.
Steyer now has “at his fingertips a potentially powerful tool:
An email list of millions of motivated activists who he can reach instantly for organizing and fundraising,” Marinucci and Siders note.
Steyer is the founder and former co-senior managing partner of Farallon Capital and the co-founder of OneCalifornia Bank, which became (through merger) Beneficial State Bank, an Oakland-based community development bank.Farallon Capital manages $20 billion in capital for institutions and high-net-worth individuals. The firm’s institutional investors include college endowments and foundations. Since 1986, Steyer has been a partner and member of the Executive Committee at Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based $8 billion private equity firm. In 2010, Steyer and his wife signed The Giving Pledge to donate half of their fortune to charity during their lifetime. In 2012, he sold his stake in and retired from Farallon Capital. Switching his focus to politics and the environment, he launched NextGen America, a non-profit organization that supports progressive positions on climate change, immigration, health care, and education. Steyer served on the Board of Trustees at Stanford University from 2012 to 2017.
Steyer, has been a longtime donor to Democratic politicians spent more than $91 million to elect Democrats in 2016 alone and has already spent $20 million of his own money on a series of television commercials — mostly aired on cable news networks — calling for Trump to be impeached.
Steyer also alleges that Trump should be impeached because the president has continued to take money from foreign governments since taking office. In order to apply pressure on Democrats to change their mind, Steyer announced earlier this year that he would not donate to any Democrat in 2018 who did not support impeaching Trump.
While his television campaign and donor money hasn’t yet moved the needle with elected Democrats, Politico reports that his efforts have allowed him to assemble an army of digital activists that rivals the size and influence of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’, which is widely considered to be the gold standard among liberal activists.
Steyer has built a list of almost 4 million activists through impeachment petition signatures on his site, NeedtoImpeach.com. Steyer has gathered 3.73 million signatures for his NeedToImpeach.com drive targeting Trump—coupled with his national TV advertising campaign meant to frighten viewers over Trump’s access to nuclear weapons and his mental state. He has announced a goal of 5 million signatures, and he appears ready to spend any amount of money that is necessary to achieve that goal. If he is ultimately successful, the size of his email list will rival Sanders’, which is estimated at just over 5 million names.
Politico reports that many Democratic operatives also expect Steyer to enter the political fray personally, either to run for office in his home state of California, or to mount a possible run for president in 2020. If he does ultimately decide to run, he faces long odds: a recent poll conducted by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies showed him with low name recognition and support even in California. “Whatever is going to happen,” Sargent concluded, “Democrats should rise to the occasion and treat it with the gravity and ambition it commands.”
Trump already acknowledged Steyer earlier this year and used his familiar tactic of insulting challengers of any kind by calling Steyer “unhinged” and “wacky.”
“Wacky & totally unhinged Tom Steyer, who has been fighting me and my Make America Great Again agenda from beginning, never wins elections!” Trump tweeted October 27, roughly a week after Steyer’s ads hit the airwaves.