Billionaire anti-Trump activist Tom Steyer launches presidential bid

California billionaire Tom Steyer on Tuesday morning announced his bid to join the two dozen Democrats running for president. In a four-minute video released by his campaign titled “Fundamental Change,” Steyer said that he wishes to “push power down to the people” and away from corporations.

“Obviously corporations don’t have hearts. Or souls. Or futures. They don’t have children. They have a short time frame, and they really care about just making money. If you give them the unlimited ability to participate in politics, it will skew anything because they only care about profits,” said Steyer.

The 62-year-old fervent anti-Trump activist has been a prominent backer of Democratic candidates and causes such as climate change and, in the past year, impeachment. During the 2014 midterm elections, Steyer lavished $74 million on the campaigns of candidates who promised to take action on global warming. According to Forbes, he funneled $67 million of those funds through his PAC NextGen Climate Action.

American environmentalist Tom Steyer
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American environmentalist Tom Steyer
Tom Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital Management LLC and president of NextGen Climate Action Committee, stands for a photograph after a Bloomberg Television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Steyer, the billionaire environmental activist who spent at least $87 million on the 2016 election, said he can't begin to estimate how much of his fortune he'll put toward fighting Donald Trump's presidency. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
American environmentalist Tom Steyer speaks at the Netroots Nation annual conference for political progressives in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: Jackie Dupont-Walker and Tom Steyer speak during Climate Day LA at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on June 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Timothy Norris/WireImage)
Investor, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer speaks at the Center for American Progress' 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington, DC, U.S. on November 19, 2014. Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer is expanding his political agenda beyond climate change to embrace issues ranging from immigration to income inequality, which he expects will be critical to mustering votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November presidential election. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo
SACRAMENTO, CA - AUGUST 21: Tom Steyer speaks during the Imagine Justice concert at Capitol Mall on August 21, 2017 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 08: Sen. Kevin de Leon (L) and Tom Steyer attend Global Green USA's Millennium Awards at Fairmont Miramar Hotel on June 8, 2013 in Santa Monica, California benefiting the places, the people and the planet in need. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Global Green)
Thomas 'Tom' Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital Management LLC, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in Pescadero, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Keystone XL will be a 'major driver' of oil sands expansion that significantly raises the risks of climate change, said Steyer, a former hedge fund manager who has spent some of his fortune fighting the pipeline. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, listens as Tom Steyer of 'No on 23' speaks as a press conference was held at Vista Hermosa Park in Los Angeles calling for a No vote on Proposition 23 on August 31, 2010. Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero are backing the Proposition which is a dirty energy proposition. (Photo by Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05: Co-Founder of Advanced Energy Economy Tom Steyer speaks during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 08: Co-Founder of Sungevity Danny Kennedy, democratic member of the California State Senate Kevin de Leon and philanthropist Tom Steyer arrive at Global Green USA's Annual Millennium Awards at Fairmont Miramar Hotel on June 8, 2013 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

“You know, you look at climate change. That is people who are saying, ‘we’d rather make money than save the world,’” Steyer added in his video. “That’s an amazing statement, and it’s happening today. And there are politicians supporting that.”

Steyer has stepped down from NextGen and from his campaign to remove President Trump, Need to Impeach.

In January, Steyer said he would not run in 2020 and instead devote himself to the impeachment effort. His announcement Tuesday reverses that decision.

With his announcement, he joins a crowded campaign field — now back up to 25, after Rep. Eric Swalwell became the first Democratic dropout Monday — led by Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. With little name recognition and no record of holding public office, Steyer — who made his fortune, pegged by Forbes at $1.6 billion, as a hedge fund manager— will face an uphill battle to break out of the pack. While he’s unlikely to clear the DNC’s threshold for the upcoming debates in Detroit, Steyer asks visitors to his website to chip in small dollar amounts to help secure his spot on the third debate stage, which requires 130,000 individual donors and a showing of 2 percent in four qualifying polls — no easy task for a little-known late starter.

A spokesman for Steyer said he was prepared to spend $100 million of his own money on his campaign, enough to propel a conventional candidate into serious contention.

Critics of Steyer echo a question posed to many low-polling candidates and potential candidates in the field: Why you? Though Steyer does not answer that question directly, he implies that his status as an outside-the-Beltway figure who has never held public office gives him a distinctive perspective (albeit one he shares with at least two other Democratic candidates, author Marianne Williamson and entrepreneur Andrew Yang).

"Americans are deeply disappointed and hurt by the way they're treated by what they see as the power elite in Washington, D.C., and that goes across party lines and it goes across democracy," said Steyer.

But that argument has also been made by another billionaire exploring a candidacy for the presidency, Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz. Schultz, who recently suspended his campaign owing to a back injury, had struggled to gain traction with voters. Steyer might face the same uphill battle.


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