WASHINGTON — Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer, who is frequently seen on TV ads advocating for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, announced Monday that he will donate $30 million to boost the youth vote in an effort to flip the House for Democrats.
Steyer also told reporters he had purchased 535 copies of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” and said he would deliver copies of the new book, which has infuriated the president, to every member of Congress.
Steyer, 60, said that the impeachment of Trump “is the struggle of our time” and that he believed he could do the most good for America by concentrating on removing Trump from the White House. He already has spent $20 million to launch the Need to Impeach campaign.
Political reporters had covered the event in part to find out if Steyer, a San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire, would announce a run for the California governor’s seat, or for the seat held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who at 84 is the oldest serving senator. Steyer had said he was considering running for both offices.
The D.C. announcement touched off speculation that Steyer, who spent close to $90 million in 2016 on progressive campaigns, is thinking of running for president in 2020.
A prominent TV ad campaign starring Steyer has advocated impeachment and aired a “demand that elected officials take a stand on impeachment.” Facing the camera in a denim shirt and calling himself “a citizen” in an early ad for the effort, Steyer stated, “This president is a clear and present danger who’s mentally unstable and armed with nuclear weapons.”
While most Americans may not have heard of Steyer, at least before the Need to Impeach ads, his considerable fortune could give him an edge in what is expected to be a crowded 2020 Democratic primary. Need to Impeach could help him launch his candidacy with a database of millions of avid impeachment supporters.
Steyer described his decision to bankroll youth organizing in 10 states as “doubling down on Need to Impeach.”
On Twitter, David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, dismissed the impeachment campaign as “a vanity project” and “unhelpful.”
Other top Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, made no secret of their disapproval of pro-impeachment efforts in progressive corners. When the House voted on an impeachment measure in December, it tanked in a 364-58 vote. There are 193 Democrats in the House.
Last year Harvard Constitutional Law Professor Lawrence Tribe argued that Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey provided grounds for launching an investigation into impeaching Trump for obstruction of justice. On that score, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley disagreed.
Experts on both sides of that argument, however, agree on this much — before the legal arguments, there is political math. As long as Republicans control the House and barring stunning new information, they are unlikely to vote to impeach one of their own.
California Democratic strategist Dan Newman noted that a number of Democratic donors “are focusing on impeachment.” Steyer’s Need to Impeach campaign may irk the likes of Pelosi, Newman said, but for party leaders, what’s not to like about spending millions to help Democrats win House seats?
“Flipping the House could literally be de facto impeachment,” Newman added.
Matt Dempsey, an energy consultant who worked for global-warming skeptic Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, has followed Steyer’s career closely. “It is interesting that he’s gone from doing climate change agenda to an anti-Trump agenda,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey noticed last year when NextGen Climate, a group founded by Steyer in 2013 to fight climate change, rebranded itself as “NextGen America.” The new Steyer organization explained that the name change reflected “the breadth of the organization’s efforts to promote American values and stand up to Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s assault on our way of life.”
Steyer, Dempsey observed, “always wants to have the speculation” that he’s going to run for office, only to be thwarted by unimpressive poll numbers. “Clearly he wants to play on the national stage,” Dempsey added, hence the press conference’s D.C. venue.
Why is Steyer doing this? “A combination of authentic outrage with the president and the Republican agenda and personal ambition,” answered Newman. “I don’t think anybody except him knows what the mix is.”