What if you threw a press conference to announce that there was no news to announce? “We have taken a disastrous turn,” Tom Steyer says of the Donald Trump presidency, adding, “I am willing to do whatever it takes to help save our country.” And whatever it takes means … doing pretty much the same things that Steyer has been doing for the last few years, rather than run for office himself:
Democratic donor Tom Steyer, who has spent more than $100 million since 2016 on political campaigns, will forgo any run for office this year and focus instead on ending Republican control of the House of Representatives.
“People have been asking me for 12 months and five days what I’m going to run for,” Steyer said in an interview before a news conference in downtown D.C. “I’m not going to run for anything. I’ve said all along, the question I always ask is: Where can I make the most differential impact? And when I look at the jobs I can run for in California, they all have reputable Democrats running for them already.”
Steyer’s decision removes some of the drama from California’s races for governor and U.S. Senate, which had attracted ambitious Democrats who had been wanting to move up for years. The billionaire, who plunged into politics in 2013 when he founded NextGen Climate to advocate for Democrats, had been discussed as a 2016 candidate for Senate and seen by some 2018 gubernatorial candidates as a dark horse who could jump in late.
“He’s running. He’s been running,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) told Politico in late 2016 during a conversation about Steyer’s spending on voter registration efforts. “It’s going to be a very crowded field.”
So much for Newsom’s keen insights, eh? To be fair, though, Steyer’s decision to call a press conference to announce his plans seemed to fit Newsom’s analysis. The billionaire had laid all of the groundwork for a campaign and seemingly only needed to direct it at a particular office. One option made sense — a primary challenge against Dianne Feinstein, the four-term-plus Senator who is already the oldest Democrat in the upper chamber. Feinstein announced her intention to seek a fifth full term (she first served the last two years of Pete Wilson’s term after a 1992 special election) last October, saying she has “lots more to do.”
Rather than put his mouth where his money is, so to speak, Steyer has decided to keep funding the efforts of others. So far, he hasn’t had a lot of success. He famously rented out the Senate through Harry Reid as a stunt for climate-change policy, which produced no proposals whatsoever even though Democrats controlled the Senate at that time. His latest pet project (cost: $20 million and rising) is a campaign to impeach Trump, even though Steyer himself has trouble articulating any substantial grounds for such an action.
But who knows? A few hundred million more dollars might just do the trick. At least it would help deplete Steyer’s reserves for 2020, when we’re likelier to get Steyermas. Unless Oprah jumps into the race, that is.