Steyer PAC hires 700 in 7 states to make climate ‘dominant issue’

Source: Elana Schor, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2014

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate political action committee has opened more than 20 offices and hired more than 700 people across the seven states where his largely self-funded operation plans to spend millions of dollars more to help elect Senate and gubernatorial candidates who support broad action on climate change, his aides said today.

Steyer senior adviser Chris Lehane told reporters that his team sees NextGen advertising playing a significant role in elevating climate as “a dominant issue, if not the predominant issue” in the races that the super PAC promised to target more than three months ago. The NextGen ads occasionally have attracted as much attention for their unpredictable style as for their effectiveness — one aimed at Iowa GOP Senate hopeful Joni Ernst focused overtly on the outsourcing of jobs, not the environment — but Lehane sought to parry those arguments by noting how frequently Republicans under NextGen scrutiny have gone on the defensive, trying to bolster their own environmental credentials.

Colorado GOP Senate nominee Rep. Cory Gardner, for one, released an ad this week touting his support for wind power, while Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott launched an “environment tour” last month before a round of NextGen ads slamming his ties to major fossil fuel and utility interests.

Such responses are “a very different type of approach than you’ve seen from Republicans in the past,” Lehane told reporters today.

Asked about the disparate media strategies NextGen is using in each of its seven states — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — Lehane described them as essentially aligning along two paths that Steyer’s advisers first outlined in May. The first engages voters on the validity of climate change, Lehane said, that they personally are “being impacted in a negative way,” and the second category of message links Republican candidates to wealthy industry players that generate greenhouse gas emissions, or what NextGen describes as the “tobacco-ization” of opponents.

Steyer initially eyed an election-year investment of $50 million, to be matched by the same amount of contributions from other donors (E&E Daily, May 22). While his pace so far during the midterm campaign cycle has lagged considerably in terms of outside donors, with fewer than five emerging so far in federal campaign-finance disclosures, Steyer vowed last month that NextGen would have enough money to accomplish its goals (Greenwire, Aug. 13).