Monday, April 6, 2015

Green billionaire's '16 gameplan? Shame GOP on climate change

Billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer hopes to shame GOP presidential candidates over their climate change skepticism in the 2016 campaign.

He is also seeking to tie Republicans to his arch foes: Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who spent more than $100 million in the 2014 midterms behind GOP candidates opposed to environmental regulations.

With each dollar that they’re spending, they’re building a political system that is responsive to their economic bottom line — not the majority of the people, not the will of the people,” Chris Lehane, Steyer’s top strategist, told reporters on Monday as he rolled out NextGen's initial 2016 strategy.

“And, in effect, the Kochs and their allies are creating what we see as a new political party. Instead of the Grand Old Party, the Republicans now have a new Koch Republican Party, the party of Big Oil.”

The Koch brothers effort in 2014 was successful. The GOP gained seats in the House and took back the Senate, making Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the majority leader. 

One of McConnell's first actions in setting the Senate's schedule was to move legislation requiring President Obama to approve the Keystone pipeline. Obama vetoed the measure after it was sent to him by the GOP Congress, but the effort signaled a change in Washington. 

In the 2014 cycle, Steyer spent $74 million while NextGen kicked in $11 million, mostly on losing candidates.

Steyer hopes to recover from the 2014 beating to help Democrats retain the White House and possibly take back the Senate in 2016, when Republicans face a more difficult map. The GOP is defending 24 seats in 2016 compared to 10 for Democrats. 

Lehane said they are honing the lessons they learned in the 2014 midterm elections to inform their strategy for 2016.

The initial effort, launched Monday with a video, is being dubbed the “Hot Seat.” It’s the first NextGen campaign to feature its dual priorities of highlighting GOP candidates’ climate skepticism and their links to the Kochs.

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