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Billionaire Tom Steyer wants to get Trump impeached—and he's spending at least $40 million to get it done

The biggest single donor in politics is doubling down

by Alex Thompson
Jan 8 2018, 6:52pm

The calls for impeaching President Donald Trump are just getting started.

Billionaire and Democrat Tom Steyer, the biggest donor in American politics in 2014 and 2016, announced Monday that he would be making a run at that title again in 2018.

Steyer told a crowd of reporters and supporters in Washington that he would spend $30 million to promote youth turnout across 10 states through his NextGen group for the 2018 midterms and expected to spend an additional $20 million-plus on his “Need to Impeach” campaign, which aims to mobilize support behind deposing Trump.

“We are doubling down on our 'Need to Impeach' campaign,” said Steyer, who has already spent $20 million on TV commercials since the first one aired in October. “He has committed at least eight impeachable offenses, by my count.”

Besides pouring tens of millions of dollars into more commercials, Steyer said the campaign will add more engagement between voters and lawmakers. The first step in that effort would be constituents delivering copies of the new book “Fire and Fury” to congressional offices this week. The much-buzzed-about book, by veteran journalist Michael Wolff, depicts the president as childlike and unfit for the office, sparking a White House pushback labeling it tabloid fiction.

Read more: Here's what America's biggest political donor is doing with his money

Steyer, a former hedge fund manager turned political player, spent over $91 million in the 2016 election and $75 million in the 2014 midterms, making him the biggest donor in American politics according to The Center for Responsive Politics. Unlike the Koch Brothers, who have organized a network of big donors to funnel money into conservative causes, Steyer has been spending mostly his own money on his efforts. The results have been mixed with most of NextGen’s candidates losing in 2014 and 2016, but it’s unclear if that’s because the money was misspent or because Republicans had strong election performances in both cycles.

Steyer’s continuing impeachment campaign will likely dismay Democratic leaders who believe focusing on impeachment will alienate voters that would be more convinced by policy arguments.

“It is premature,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told The Daily Beast soon after Steyer began running his impeachment ads. “And to call for [impeachment] now, you might blow your shot when it has a better chance of happening.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has also said Democrats ought to stop using the i-word. “The fact is that we've got to really be saying what this election means to people in their lives,” she told CNN in November. “[If] somebody has some facts that come forth about President Trump, let the chips fall where they may. But it's not some place I think we should go.”

Steyer pushed back on Monday, saying that prioritizing policy differences or removing Trump from office is a “false choice.” There’s not much Democrats can do to stop Steyer beyond the public rebukes. He doesn’t hold any elected office, but he has inherent power over the political system by virtue of his prodigious wealth. Democratic lawmakers still want his money for their own campaigns, after all.

Some Democrats also privately speculate that Steyer has grabbed onto impeachment in order to increase his own profile with the Left — which hates Trump with a passion — for a future run for public office.

Read more: Big oil has donated millions to senators considering Rex Tillerson for secretary of state

Steyer poked a hole in that theory on Monday by forgoing a run for Governor of California in 2018, instead keeping his focus on impeachment and the 2018 midterms. If Steyer does want to run for office, the next statewide office in California does not open until 2022. He could also run for president in 2020, which his national impeachment campaign could boost.

But Steyer said his focus is completely on the 2018 elections, which he called “a battle for the soul of this country.”

The Republican National Committee says it welcomes a push for impeachment. "If Democrats’ message for 2018 is a baseless impeachment threat that the majority of voters disagree with, they’re going to lose," RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said, in a statement.

NextGen will focus its efforts on registering and mobilizing young voters, especially on college campuses, where Steyer has been touring and spending for the last few years. The billionaire said that young voters have been awakened by Trump’s presidency and predicted that they will be the “x-factor” in determining whether Democrats take back the House of Representatives. In a statement, NextGen called it the “largest youth organizing program in American history” and said they would run it in Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Arizona.

Steyer said that supporting impeachment would not be a requirement to receive support from NextGen.

But if Democrats do take back the House in 2018, that would be significant, because you only need a simple majority to impeach a president. The Need to Impeach campaign may be just getting started.