Tom SteyerTom SteyerOvernight Energy: 'Eye of fire,' Exxon lobbyist's comments fuel renewed attacks on oil industry | Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline | More than 75 companies ask Congress to pass clean electricity standard Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline Six things to watch as California heads for recall election MORE’s decision to jump into the Democratic presidential primary contest on Tuesday marked the billionaire philanthropist’s first official foray into electoral politics as a candidate.
But he’s not a political newcomer. Steyer has spent years — and millions of dollars — as a liberal activist on issues ranging from climate change to impeaching President TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE.
While many Americans may know him from his television ads calling for lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, Steyer has dabbled in politics for years and is highly influential in Democratic circles.
Here are five things to know about Steyer.
He founded a major hedge fund firm
Steyer founded Farallon Capital, an investment firm with more than $20 billion under its management, in 1986.
While he sold off his stake in the firm in 2012, his tenure at the company could expose him to scrutiny on the campaign trail. The firm invested hundreds of millions of dollars in businesses that operate coal mines and coal-fired power plants over the years, including during Steyer’s time there.
He has pledged more than half of his wealth to philanthropic causes
Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, signed “The Giving Pledge” in 2010, vowing to donate “the bulk of our assets to philanthropic activities carried out over the course of our lifetimes.”
“We do plan to give the vast bulk of our money to charitable pursuits," the couple wrote in their pledge, adding they "expect every minute of the ride will be exciting and engaging.”
“That doesn't compare in our minds with the sacrifices that other Americans have made in terms of effort, danger, and life itself on behalf of their country and fellow citizens,” the couple added.
Their pledge is a sizable one. Steyer is worth an estimated $1.6 billion, according to Forbes.
He’s spent millions on political issues
Despite some of Farallon’s investments, Steyer has emerged as one of the country’s most influential environmentalists, spending millions of dollars over the years to back candidates and organizations vowing to combat climate change.
He founded NextGen America, in 2013, with the goal of mobilizing young voters and supporting candidates who advocate for climate action.
More recently, Steyer has become known for his efforts to pressure lawmakers on Capitol Hill to impeach Trump, launching an initiative in 2017 dubbed Need to Impeach. Through that group, Steyer has spent millions on television ads calling for the president's impeachment and has amassed more than 8.2 million signatures on a petition supporting those proceedings.
While Steyer’s entrance into the presidential race will take him away from day-to-day operations at his political groups, he said Tuesday that he has already committed $50 million to fund the organizations through 2020.
Steyer also plans to spend $100 million on his presidential campaign.
He previously considered a run for California governor
Steyer’s nascent campaign for president may be his first official bid for public office, but it’s not the first time he’s eyed a political campaign.
He considered a gubernatorial bid after former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) won his second and final term in 2014, testing the waters for a campaign in 2017.
That year, he fielded a survey in the state to gauge his strengths and weaknesses as a potential candidate. But in early 2018, he announced he would forgo a run for the governor’s mansion.
He initially declined to run for president
Steyer’s political involvement and related travel schedule previously fueled speculation that he could mount a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, a prospect that appeared even more likely given a slate of town hall events he had hosted in early contest states such as Iowa and South Carolina.
But during a stop in Des Moines, Iowa, in January, Steyer said he would not seek the Democratic presidential nomination “at this time,” adding that he planned to dedicate himself entirely to efforts to impeach Trump.
That statement didn’t close the door to a presidential bid entirely, giving Steyer some wiggle room to reconsider at a later date. Indeed, he did so on Tuesday.