Good news/bad news here:
A Super PAC funded by liberal billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer has announced it will spend as much as $100 million this election season attacking Republicans in seven key states who it says are climate-science “deniers.”
The Republicans being targeted by Steyer’s political committee, NextGen Climate Action, include Govs. Rick Scott of Florida, Paul LePage of Maine and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, as well as GOP Senate candidates Cory Gardner in Colorado, Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs in Iowa, Terri Lynn Land in Michigan and Scott Brown in New Hampshire.
“Our goal is very clear – to impact the politics as it relates to climate change,” Chris Lehane, Steyer’s political adviser, told a group of reporters in unveiling NextGen Climate’s campaign strategy.
The effort is intended to turn out Democratic-leaning voters (such as minorities and young adults) and to paint targeted Republican candidates as anti-science. That, Lehane said, is “a tough brand to win elections around.”
Naturally I detest the idea that the future of our habitat is up to billionaires to fight it out with each other, Steyer-vs.-Koch. But I also detest unilateral disarmament. So until Citizens United and McCutcheon magically go away, go Team Steyer.
$100 million sounds like a lot of money, but often there are seriously diminishing returns. Even here in a geographically small state, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign raised an insane amount of money — $42 million — won by a handy-but-not-overwhelming margin, and then had to pass the hat to retire campaign debt. Was all that money well-spent? Necessary?
We are fortunate in a way that most of Americans for Prosperity’s ads are so transparently phony and patronizing. The Koch brothers almost certainly don’t get their money’s worth, because their ads push a mean-spirited philosophy and program that most folks can’t agree with.
So even with all that money, Steyer’s ads have to be good. They have to be decent, respectful voter education at their core. Unfortunately climate is not at the forefront of many people’s minds, and that seed has to be planted and nurtured.
Would that money be better spent encouraging on-the-ground organizing, neighbor-to-neighbor advocacy? TV ads create support that’s broad but shallow; would we rather have a tight-knit, “relational” movement based on family and neighborhood ties, based on social trust? Can Steyer’s money even help with that?
Whether $5 million or $100 million, it’s all about the execution. We’ll see what Steyer et al come up with.