Huge Spending But Minimal Return: Tom Steyer Has Little to Show After His $73 Million Investment

By: Laura Edelman, Staff Member

The Republicans pummeled the Democrats in the 2014 elections in November. With a new found majority in the Senate and an expansion of their majority in the House, the Republicans now have full control over Congress.[i]

This means billionaire environmental activist, Tom Steyer, lost a big bet.[ii] A $73 million bet.[iii] Steyer and his NextGen Climate Action Super PAC was one of the most active outside groups this election cycle.[iv] After the Senate and House Majority PACs, the NextGen Climate Action was the top grossing liberal PAC.[v] The ads, which backed Democrat candidates, ran in seven specially selected states focusing on Senate and governors’ races.[vi] The colossal effort generated only three victories—in Pennsylvania for governor and in New Hampshire and Michigan for the Senate.[vii] 

It appears what is close to Steyer’s heart is not reflected in the hearts of voters. A Gallup Poll conducted before the election asked voters about 13 issues facing society.[viii] There was a clear determination that Democrats held a significant lead over Republicans on climate control, but that was the least important issue to voters.[ix] And now a new Congress—the most hostile environmentalists have dealt with—is taking control.[x] Furthermore, Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and a climate change-denier, is ascending to the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, replacing climate activist Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California.[xi]  

Although Steyer was vying to change the perception of American voters in regards to climate change, he appeared to have little effect. Yet the outcome of November’s election has not deterred Steyer. He thinks “this was money incredibly well spent.”[xii] Steyer hopes his efforts have put climate control on the ballot this year and a precedent for the elections to come.[xiii] His eye is already set on 2016.[xiv]

[i] Igor Bobic, How The 2014 Midterm Elections Made History, Huffington Post, (Nov. 5, 2014, 1:59 PM),

[ii] Alex Altman, The Tom Steyer Strategy: Billionaire Activist Reflects on 2014, TIME, (Nov. 6, 2014),

[iii] 2014 Outside Spending, by Super PAC,, (last visited Nov. 9, 2014).

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] Coral Davenport, Meager Returns for the Democrats’ Biggest Donor, The New York Times, (Nov. 6, 2014),

[vii] Id.

[viii] Andrew Dugan, U.S. Voters Give GOP Edge vs. Dems on Handling Top Issues, Gallup, (Oct. 13, 2014),

[ix] Id.

[x] Evan Halper, Mark Z. Barabak, Tom Steyer gets little payoff for millions spent on green issues, Los Angeles Times, (Nov. 5, 2014, 6:55 PM),

[xi] Carolyn Lochhead, Tom Steyer lost big in midterm elections but says he won’t quit, San Francisco Chronicle, (Nov. 6, 2014, 2:22 PM),

[xii] Davenport, supra note 6.

[xiii] Id.  

[xiv] Id.