An environmental advocacy group backed by hedge fund tycoon Tom Steyer is set to unleash a seven-state, $100 million offensive against Republican “science deniers” this year, a no-holds-barred campaign-style push from the green billionaire that could help decide which party controls the Senate and key statehouses come November.
The Steyer-backed outside group, NextGen Climate, has billed itself as a progressive, pro-environment counterbalance to the wealthy oil and gas industry — as well as the primary foil to the pro-business Koch brothers and their well-funded conservative donor network.
The outfit, launched last year by the San Francisco billionaire, has already pledged to spend heavily this midterm year in Iowa to assist the Democratic Senate nominee Bruce Braley, and in Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott is facing a difficult re-election fight against Democrat Charlie Crist.
Steyer’s 2014 map now includes Senate races in Michigan, New Hampshire and Colorado as well as governor’s races in Maine and Pennsylvania, home to two of the most endangered Republican governors in the country, Paul LePage and Tom Corbett.
“This is the year, in our view, that we are able to demonstrate that you can use climate, you can do it well, you can do it in a smart way, to win political races,” said Chris Lehane, the longtime Democratic consultant advising Steyer.
Lehane and NextGen political strategist Sky Gallegos revealed their 2014 strategy Wednesday in a briefing with reporters in Washington.
‘Pro-climate action’ vs. ‘anti-science’
Absent from their list of 2014 targets: must-win Senate races for Democrats in conservative-leaning states such as Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina, Louisiana and Kentucky. That’s because Democrats on those ballots have expressed support for the Keystone XL pipeline, the coal industry, offshore drilling or hydraulic fracturing — all nonstarter issues for environmentalists.
Instead, Lehane said the 501(c)4 group will play in races that feature a stark choice between “pro-climate action” candidates — all Democrats — and “anti-science” Republicans who have questioned the veracity of climate change or supported the interests of the oil and gas industry.
GOP candidates in the NextGen cross hairs — Scott in Florida, Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, Scott Brown in New Hampshire and Cory Gardner in Colorado — hew closely to the “Republican troglodyte brand,” Lehane argued.
“They are anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-science,” he said. “It’s a tough brand to win elections around.”
The group said that climate can be successfully used as a wedge issue — Lehane framed it as a moral clash between “right and wrong” — to boost turnout among Democratic voting groups that tend not to show up in midterm election years, specifically young voters, Hispanics and African-Americans.
As in the Virginia governor’s race last year — when Steyer spent nearly $8 million on a campaign to disqualify GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli with a combination of TV, mail and field operations — the efforts will extend beyond the TV airwaves and include what they call “nano-targeting” to tailor messaging to discrete voting groups.
“We are not some super PAC that’s going to come in, throw up some ads and leave,” Lehane said. “You can come into these states and really run a total campaign.”
SOURCE: Peter Hamby