[Ed. – Keystone XL-slayer takes on coal, unions.]
In 2009 — the immediately preceding time four council seats contested last year in Whatcom County, Wash., were open — candidates spent less than $7,000 on their campaigns. But during the 2013 election cycle, spending skyrocketed, with outside groups forking over as much as $148,000 to campaign for a single council seat.
There’s one man primarily responsible for this precipitous spending hike: Tom Steyer, an environmental enthusiast, hedge-fund manager, California billionaire, and emerging Democratic kingmaker.
Steyer’s interest in these four obscure local races is simple. The Whatcom county council will ultimately decide the fate of a proposed coal-export facility on the West Coast. If it receives approval, it would be the largest such American facility on the West Coast, but Steyer and his green allies fervently oppose the use of coal, so they spent heavily to support council candidates likely to vote against the export facility. Their efforts were ultimately successful, with candidates perceived as green winning all four contested seats. …
Steyer’s political action committee, NextGen Climate, gave $275,000 to the Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund, which in turn spent at least $210,000 on the Whatcom county-council elections. But it’s impossible to get an exact figure for how much Steyer money was spent in Whatcom County.
Randy Pepple, a Republican political strategist in Washington State, says Steyer’s lack of transparency was particularly alarming.
“Instead of Tom Steyer for NextGen PAC writing the checks, instead he wrote them to other organizations that were spending money, particularly the Conservation Voters,” he says. “He hid it. For all his challenges on Politico to be transparent, up here, he laundered money through political committees, so it was not entirely clear where he put all his money.”