Billionaire Steyer announces $30 million for Dem House push

Billionaire Steyer announces $30 million for Dem House push
© Greg Nash

Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer will sink tens of millions of dollars into an aggressive effort to flip the House to the Democrats, giving them a cash boost in their midterm push.

Steyer made his announcement at a Monday press conference in Washington, D.C., where he also ruled out launching his own bid for office in 2018.

Steyer plans to channel the money in the House effort, which he said would total at least $30 million, toward his advocacy group, NextGen America. Steyer, who has also funded a multi-million dollar ad campaign calling for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE’s impeachment, wants to use the $30 million to boost turnout among millennial voters across 10 states.

“We need a government that is actually for the people, and we are only going to get it if the people of America are organized and demand it,” he said. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“In 10 months, God willing, the people of America are going to send a wave across the nation. This tide will wash away the stain of the Trump administration.”

The effort plans to register 250,000 young voters in Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Steyer’s hope is that the turnout among young people, a core Democratic constituency, will boost Democratic fortunes down the ballot.

The effort specifically targets eight Senate races, nine gubernatorial elections and more than 30 congressional districts in those states.

The model is an expansion of NextGen’s efforts in 2016 and the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race. NextGen put 60 staffers on the ground in Virginia and knocked on 350,000 doors to help Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam win the governor’s mansion in November. 

Steyer is targeting a Republican incumbent in many of the races, including Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaTrump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency Overnight Energy: Watchdog to investigate EPA over Hurricane Harvey | Panel asks GAO to expand probe into sexual harassment in science | States sue over methane rules rollback Green group targets California GOP House candidates in new ads MORE (R-Calif.), Rep. Barbara ComstockBarbara Jean ComstockMillionaires group endorses Dem House candidates opposed to GOP tax law Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls Overnight Energy: Watchdog to investigate EPA over Hurricane Harvey | Panel asks GAO to expand probe into sexual harassment in science | States sue over methane rules rollback MORE (R-Va.) and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign Blue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests MORE (R-Wis.). Issa and Comstock are both considered top Democratic targets.

In other races, NextGen will work to protect a Democratic incumbent. An aide told reporters after the event that the group doesn’t plan to take sides in Democratic primaries.

Steyer’s effort comes as Democrats are increasingly emboldened in their effort to take the House. Democrats are favored by an average of more than 11 points on the generic congressional ballot, according to RealClearPolitics’s average. Trump’s favorability continues to languish, further boosting Democratic hopes.

Democrats will need to flip 24 seats in November in order to take back the House majority. Democrats need to win two seats to do the same in the Senate, although they face a more difficult map in that chamber.

Steyer largely focused his messaging Monday on the House, but his staff confirmed NextGen would also seek to play a role in Senate races too.

“My fight is not just in California. My fight is in removing Donald Trump from office and from power, and that starts with taking the House back in 2018,” Steyer said.

“This Republican Congress is willing to aid and abet a dangerous president because holding him accountable would put their agenda at risk.”

Steyer is one of the wealthiest Democratic donors in politics — he spent more than $91 million during the 2016 campaign, including donations to candidates, super PACs and NextGen America. He’s long flirted with political bids of his own — he decided against running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2016 and his name had been rumored as a potential candidate in California’s gubernatorial race or as a primary challenger to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) this year.

Steyer’s decision to forgo a campaign keeps those two fields static for now. And it frees up the nation’s most prolific political donor in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, to spend millions on the Democratic Party’s efforts instead of a run for office of his own.

Feinstein, who would have faced a historically expensive primary if Steyer had decided to run against her, praised the billionaire for his promise to help Democrats take the majority in Congress. 

“I know I speak for many Californians who want to thank Tom Steyer for his work to raise the issue of climate change, achieve progressive victories in our state and empower voters across America,” she tweeted. 

“I look forward to his continued activism in the months ahead as we campaign to take back both chambers of Congress to protect the nation from the dangerous Trump agenda." 

Steyer has kept up his activism since Trump’s election with his “Need to Impeach” effort. He’s spent more than $20 million on advertisements and other pushes calling for Trump’s impeachment, while collecting more than 4 million signatures. That list will be a serious asset to any future plans by Steyer or his organization.

Steyer also announced Monday that he will “double down” on his impeachment campaign. 

That effort has split Democrats, with some worrying that such an aggressive call to remove the president from office could turn off moderate voters.

Steyer’s push to aid the Democratic effort in the midterms will be up against some serious firepower from the other side, too. Republicans are circling the wagon for a spending bonanza of their own.

While the Republican National Committee has vastly out-fundraised the Democratic National Committee, Democrats’ congressional campaign arms have outraised their Republican counterparts. 

Republicans will also be boosted by their own massive ground-game operations. One outside group, the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC, already has offices in 27 congressional districts and announced that it has made more than 5 million voter contacts since last February.

Courtney Alexander, the super PAC's communications director, said in a statement that Steyer’s push for a Democratic House majority amounts to throwing his money away.

“While liberals like Tom Steyer are wasting money, and spending their time and energy yelling about impeaching the president, Republicans are out in communities talking to Americans about tax reform and cutting taxes for middle-class families,” she said.

“That’s a welcome contrast.”