Watch CBS News

Bay Area Billionaire Tom Steyer Spends Big As Climate Crusader

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Bay Area billionaire Tom Steyer is against money in politics. But he's spending plenty to become the Democratic party's climate crusader.

Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer might be called the left's Koch Brother. Just don't call him that to his face.

Democratic Funder Steyer said, "Everything they do contributes to their bottom line. Whether that's intentional or not I can't say. But the fact remains everything they do contributes to their bottom line. It certainly doesn't contribute to mine."

But Steyer is a funding machine to Democrats, like the Koch's are to the Republicans. Though he says he's against the influence of money in politics, he donated $74 million last election cycle. This time he continues to spend liberally, on liberal causes.

"We see this election as the greatest split in my lifetime. So everything is on the table," Steyer said.

Steyer and his wife, who live in San Francisco's Seacliff neighborhood, are worth an estimated $1.5 billion and they have pledged to give half of their fortune to charity.

Steyer helped organize a San Francisco meeting of environmentalists as a followup to the Paris climate accords last year. His passion can at times equal his fortune.

"The impacts of the changing climate are here....there's no question in my mind, this is an urgent situation. And there's no doubt in my mind that Californians understand that," he said.

He's been considered for Cabinet positions and there's talk he may run for california Governor in 2018. But he wouldn't commit to that on Thursday. Though Republicans are ready if he does.

Jason Clark, Chair of the San Francisco GOP said, "The Democrats criticized Meg Whitman, who was a billionaire when she ran, who was kind of a special interest. So I'd find it interesting that someone who runs along the same lines, the same circles, would be considered for Governor on her side, given that he's an outsider billionaire."

It's hard to understand how he's against money in politics when he gave $74 million in the last election.

But Steyer said, "This is the system we have right now. These are the laws of the land set down by the Supreme Court of the United States. We are doing everything we can to support the values we believe strongly in."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.