- Steyer Money Built Coal Plants in China, Australia, and Indonesia
- Steyer Bought and Sold Coal Stocks While Obama Administration was declaring War on Coal
- Steyer money tied to scandals in Russia, Oregon governments
The latest episode of “The Drill Down With Peter Schweizer” is about the new candidate for president, Tom Steyer, and how he cashed in on dirty energy and Obama networking.
Hi, I’m Peter Schweizer, and this is the Drill Down, where we drill down on cronyism and corruption in Washington D.C.
Tom Steyer is a hedge fund manager turned political and environmental activist and he’s just joined the Democratic presidential field. Now, today, his raft of investments align perfectly well with his advocacy of clean energy.[i] However, that hasn’t always been the case, in rather dramatic fashion.
In 1986, Tom Steyer founded something called Farallon Capital. It was a hedge fund, and that hedge fund has made him a billionaire and it’s helped him to fund his environmental agenda. But Farallon Capital has been a major investor in a number of projects that won’t be mentioned at any clean energy summits.[ii]
Steyer stepped down as CEO of Farallon Capital in 2012, but under his watch, the investment firm put money into coal plants in China, Indonesia, even Australia, where a newly constructed plant in New South Wales is expected to churn out coal for the next 30 years. The mine’s 2014 groundbreaking, which occurred in an Australian state forest, was so controversial it inspired a veteran to stand in front of a bulldozer and a music teacher to chain himself to a piece of excavation equipment.
[iii] All told, the coal mines increased their production by more than 70 million tons of coal since getting investment from Steyer. As the New York Times noted, that’s more than Britain consumes annually.
Steyer earned praise from the left for his efforts to get President Obama to kill the Keystone pipeline[iv], but his hedge fund had more at stake than just environmental concerns. In the first quarter of 2012, while Tom Steyer was bundling campaign contributions for Obama’s re-election, Steyer’s company was invested in a competing Canadian pipeline company, Kinder Morgan, which stood to benefit when the Obama administration refused to approve the Keystone pipeline. [v]
But that wasn’t the only time Steyer’s investments benefitted from Obama administration decisions.
Because of his financial support of Obama’s candidacy, Steyer enjoyed high-level private access to the White House. Steyer met with numerous senior White House officials, including both Rahm Emmanuel and Bill Daley when each was White House chief of staff, and also White House counselor John Podesta.
As Steyer availed himself of this access, his firm was cashing in on purchases of coal related stocks while the Obama administration was declaring a “war on coal”.
In 2009, shortly after Barack Obama took office, Farallon took a large stake in Freight Car America, which produced rail cars that transported coal.
Steyer’s hedge fund also purchased over 1 million shares of Massey energy, a coal production company, in 2011. [vi] A year earlier, Massey had seen 29 miners killed in an accident at a plant in West Virginia. [vii]
Steyer knew something about investing in heavily regulated industries. In the mid-1990s, his firm invested in emerging Russian market, including oil, as those sectors were being privatized by the Russian government. His partner in the Russian play was the wife of a Harvard economist tasked with overseeing that privatization. This, even though conflict-of-interest regulations barred American advisors from investing in countries they were assisting.[viii]
It’s a classic maneuver of crony capitalism.
Steyer’s post-corporate life as a behind-the-scenes influencer has occasionally been … complicated.
Oregon governor John Kitzhaber was forced to resign in early 2015 over his connections to Steyer, who donated through his charitable trust, more than $3 million to something called the Energy Foundation. In turn, the Energy Foundation made payments to a woman named Cylvia Hayes, who happened to be Kitzhaber’s energy advisor and fiancée.[ix],
Steyer now enters the presidential race pledging to spend $100 million for climate change and political reform.[xi] His body of work, however, suggests that whatever steps Steyer pledges in the name of a better environment, his track record in politics and investments is hardly what I’d call clean.
I’m Peter Schweizer and thank you for watching the Drill Down. For more episodes, find us on social media, or go to drilldowntv.com.
- Lachlan Markay, “Steyer Nonprofit Owns Stake in Green Energy Investment Firm,” Washington Free Beacon, April 15, 2015, https://freebeacon.com/politics/steyer-nonprofit-owns-stake-in-green-energy-investment-firm/.
- Kerry A. Dolan, “California Hedge Fund Billionaire Tom Steyer to Step Down, Focus on Philanthropy,” Forbes, October 23, 2012, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2012/10/23/california-hedge-fund-billionaire-tom-steyer-to-step-down-at-farallon/#349a12c57ad3.
- Michael Barbaro and Coral Davenport, “Aims of Donor Are Shadowed by Past in Coal,” New York Times, July 4, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/05/us/politics/prominent-environmentalist-helped-fund-coal-projects.html.
- Steve Contorno, “Would Billionaire Environmentalist Tom Steyer Profit if Keystone Pipeline Was Killed?” Politifact, September 19, 2014, https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/sep/19/american-crossroads/would-billionaire-environmentalist-tom-steyer-prof/.
- Contorno, “Would Billionaire Environmentalist Tom Steyer Profit if Keystone Pipeline Was Killed?”
- “The Top 15 Stocks Farallon Capital Management Is Buying,” Seeking Alpha, May 18, 2011, https://seekingalpha.com/article/270579-the-top-15-stocks-farallon-capital-management-is-buying.
- Steven Mufson, “Coal Exec Jailed After Accident Killed 29 Miners Is Out and Tweeting That It’s Not His Fault,” Washington Post, May 12, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/05/12/former-coal-exec-blankenship-is-out-of-jail-and-has-a-lot-to-say-about-the-mining-accident-that-sent-him-there/.
- David McClintick, “How Harvard Lost Russia,” Institutional Investor, January 13, 2006, https://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/b150npp3q49x7w/how-harvard-lost-russia.
- “Kitzhaber Resigns – Same Groups Behind Scandal Active in Inslee Admin, Too,” Shift Washington, February 13, 2015, https://shiftwa.org/kitzhaber-resigns-same-groups-behind-scandal-active-in-inslee-admin-too/.
- Jonathan Topaz and Elana Schor, “Kitzhaber Saga Fuels Conservatives’ Fight on Clean Energy,” Politico, February 18, 2015, https://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/john-kitzhaber-oregon-clean-energy-115287.
- Tucker Higgins and Brian Schwartz, “Billionaire Anti-Trump Activist Tom Steyer Enters 2020 Race with Pledge to Spend $100 Million,” CNBC, July 9, 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/09/tom-steyer-billionaire-pushing-to-impeach-trump-changes-mind-and-decides-to-run-for-president.html.