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Billionaires' newest playgrounds?
(Credit: Mike Bloomberg/flickr)

Billionaires' newest playgrounds?

Both Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg—prodigious funders of climate action causes and campaigns—are diverting millions into quixotic presidential runs.

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According to U.S. News, the U.S. has 607 billionaires. The fact that four of them saw fit to run for president this year is more than a little out of proportion to the population as a whole.


These four came into their fortunes by different paths. Tom Steyer was a wildly successful self-made hedge fund trader. Michael Bloomberg, who threw in last month, got rich on securities, software, and media. President Trump figured out how to monetize bloviation to multiply his father's nest-egg.

And Howard Schmidt, who cancelled his nascent bid in September, is the world's preeminent pusher of pricey, pretentious caffeine. I'll bet you'd already forgotten about him, hadn't you? For the purposes of this column, let's forget about him some more.

Forget about Gstaad, South Beach, and the Seychelles. The new billionaires' playgrounds are apparently Iowa and New Hampshire.

I wrote in July about the hobbyist nature of Steyer's campaign. Add the late-coming former New York Mayor Bloomberg to my regrets, though he at least has some experience leading an unwieldy government—for three terms, no less, after persuading the NewYork City Council to scrap the two-term limit in 2008. Mayor Bloomberg's 12 years followed the last eight years of the compos mentis portion of Rudy Giuliani's career.

Both Steyer and Bloomberg—prodigious funders of climate action causes and campaigns—are instead diverting their millions into quixotic presidential runs that are both vain and in vain.

In an America paralyzed by inaction and denial on climate change, this is a tragedy.

This week, the trade publication AdAgegave the horserace treatment to Bloomberg's and Steyer's drunken ad sprees: In just a few weeks, Bloomberg has eclipsed Steyer's $86 million drop by approaching $100 million, primarily on TV, Facebook, and website ads. Nearly 200 mil. So far.

Tom Steyer (Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

This is money, spent by two men with impressive climate credentials, that could turn the Senate away from denial, save the House from reverting to it, and turn back the quietly devastating rightward turn in governorships and statehouses.

Moreover, I wouldn't mind seeing Secretary of State Bloomberg and Treasury Secretary Steyer in 2021.

Don't get me wrong: I hold no brief for the Democrats. They can turn a sure thing into a fiasco like nobody's business. In my lifetime, I've seen them bungle Iran-Contra, Bush v Gore, and Clinton v Trump. They can lose Congressional elections by four-to-one margins in once reliable Democratic districts, and they can lose them to cartoon characters like Louie Gohmert.

The Dems need all the help they can get, and as dreadful as campaign financing can be, I'd rather see two of the pro-climate firehoses pour money on others rather than turning the hoses on themselves.

Another galling fact in all this: Steyer and Bloomberg aren't just squandering a climate war chest, they're handing it directly to the same media that's failed so miserably to cover the climate crisis. AdAge reports that Steyer alone has spent $14 million on Facebook, much to the delight of fellow billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. The money they've spent could re-make Appalachia's economy and give the region's voters a chance to simultaneously de-carbonize and de-McConnellize.

Oh, and one final point for the billionaires still skiing the slopes of Gstaad and laying out on the sands of South Beach and the Seychelles: Climate change is about to turn all three into soggy ghost towns.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences. Contact him at pdykstra@ehn.org or on Twitter at @Pdykstra.

About the author(s):

Peter Dykstra

Peter Dykstra has worked on environmental issues for decades. He is based in Conyers, Ga., and is a former publisher and weekend editor at Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate. He is a contributor to Public Radio International’s Living On Earth.

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