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Who Is Tom Steyer? Billionaire Activist Is Latest 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate


The Democratic Party just got another 2020 presidential candidate added to its already crowded field.

Tom Steyer, billionaire activist and philanthropist, said Tuesday he is joining the race

Steyer is the founder and former co-managing partner of Farallon Capital, the hedge fund at which he built his fortune. He is also the co-founder of Beneficial State Bank, an Oakland-based community development bank that his wife co-founded and currently leads. Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor have committed to give much of their estimated $1.6 billion net worth to charity as signers to the Giving Pledge. 

In 2012, Steyer sold his shares in Farallon Capital, founding NextGen Climate in 2013. The organization was founded with the objective of fighting climate change and expanded in 2017 into NextGen America, which now includes immigration, healthcare, prosperity, and equality among its areas of focus.

Also in late 2017, Steyer publicly called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump and began circulation of an online petition. The petition reached 2 million signatures in less than three weeks and became part of a broader effort called Need to Impeach. In August 2018, Need to Impeach expanded to include Need to Vote, a national initiative to turn out Democratic voters in the 2018 midterms. Need to Impeach now has 8 million members and has become the largest progressive-leaning organization in the U.S.

Other political organizations Steyer has founded or co-founded include Fair Shake Commission, which focuses on economic inequality in California and For Our Future, a PAC founded in partnership with four labor unions. He is also a member of the Democracy Alliance, a network of progressive donors that coordinate their donations. 

Steyer has contributed tens of millions to his own organizations NextGen America and Need to Impeach, as well as donating millions over the years to various Democratic causes and candidates. He was the single biggest individual donor during the 2014 midterm elections, contributing nearly $74 million, and proceeded to spend around $96 million in 2016 and $61 million in last year’s midterms through NextGen America. His total spending on the 2018 midterms came to $120 million. He has also spent millions on a number of ballot initiatives, particularly those dealing with environmental issues.

Steyer has not run for public office before, despite considering a run for Senate in 2016 and a run for Governor in 2018. He had also toyed with the idea of running for president, and then decided against it, going to Iowa in January to announce that he would not be running.

Steyer’s campaign would likely focus on the two efforts that have been central to NextGen and Need to Impeach: climate change and ousting Trump.

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