An investigation of billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer’s campaign contributions reveals a pattern of unusual donations to several cities and counties in California involved in climate liability litigation against the fossil fuel industry. The donations, all of which were made either shortly before or after the municipalities filed their lawsuits, have been given new significance after the Daily Caller published a memo this week that reveals Steyer’s team discussed opportunities to pay the “California AG and/or one or more California city attorney[s] [to] open investigations of Exxon” following the New York Attorney General’s announcement that he was investigating the company for alleged climate fraud.
The November 2015 memo directly contradicts past statements about the ExxonMobil investigation by Steyer, who has claimed, “We’re definitely not pushing this thing…We are not part of this effort.”
This latest revelation, paired with contributions from Steyer and his NextGen CA Committee to the various plaintiffs either shortly before or after they announced their lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry, suggest that Tom Steyer is actually a major kingpin in the #ExxonKnew Campaign.
In the Daily Caller memo, Tom Steyer’s Fahr LLC (Fahr is Steyer’s middle name) teamed up with Steyer’s environmental advocacy group NextGen America to create a multi-pronged brainstorming pod whose main goal is to “maintain pressure on the Fossil Fuel industry to accelerate transition to clean energy economy.” This joint conspiracy effort made up of Steyer’s most trusted advisors and employees belies previous assurances that the campaign “is not something that Tom personally is pushing.”
The fourth bullet point of the memo states a key objective of the “Fossil Fuels Pod” is to “weaken the political influence of the oil industry by leveraging the Exxon investigation by Inside Climate News and the New York Attorney General.” That stated goal is remarkably similar to another leaked memo, this one from a secret meeting at the offices of the Rockefeller Family Fund on January 8, 2016. Activists at that meeting listed related goals of “establish in public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution” and “delegitimize them as a political actor.”
The Steyer memo concludes that the group should “engage with city attorneys” to push them to get involved in the #ExxonKnew campaign, adding “(funding needed to develop case??)” Indeed, a review of donations from Steyer’s various organizations show they made large donations to the cities and counties either directly before or shortly after those municipalities announced their lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry.
Marin County and the City of Imperial Beach announced their climate lawsuits on July 17, 2017. Two weeks later Tom Steyer’s NextGen CA Committee made donations to each municipality’s affiliated Democratic Party. The Democratic Central Committee of Marin received a contribution of $30,000 on August 3, 2017, and the San Diego County Democratic Party received a $114,000 donation (Imperial Beach resides in San Diego County) from the NextGen CA Committee on August 2, 2017. Those are extremely large donations for the county parties, especially for a non-election year.
Continuing with this trend, San Francisco announced their climate lawsuit on September 20, 2017 and shortly afterwards “Steyer provided a $30,000 donation to a ballot initiative headed by the mayor.” Steyer also donated $500,000 to a pet project of the Oakland mayor shortly before Oakland announced its lawsuit.
To paraphrase Ian Fleming, once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend, and Steyer has made four suspicious donations tied to the climate lawsuits.
This action plan to fund climate lawsuits in California followed another secret memo sent to Tom Steyer by plaintiffs’ attorney Matt Pawa, who is representing San Francisco and Oakland in their lawsuits. Pawa’s memo, sent in March 2015 to two members of Steyer’s Fossil Fuels Pod, “summarizes a potential legal case against major fossil fuel corporations for their contributions to California’s injuries from global warming.” Sound familiar?
A growing mountain of evidence points to Tom Steyer as the major force behind the climate litigation effort in California, making it increasingly difficult for Steyer to try to deny his involvement in the campaign. This latest memo and the accompanying donations could create legal headaches for the plaintiffs if a judge determines they were paid by Steyer to bring frivolous lawsuits in service of Steyer’s political agenda.