Hedge Fund Billionaire’s Foray Into Politics
Hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer was peeved. It was May 2010, and out-of-state oil refiners and the conservative Koch brothers were backing a California ballot measure designed to quash the state’s ambitious law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Steyer, a Manhattan native and Democratic donor, was convinced passage would damage California’s economy and environment. “I just got pissed because no one was stepping up,” he says.
So he stepped up, forming a committee with former Secretary of State George Schultz—a Republican through and through—to fight Proposition 23. Steyer threw in a $5 million donation—the single largest sum donated—and drove around the state to jawbone people in their back yards in places like Fresno, three and a half hours from San Francisco. He also worked the phones to get donations from the likes of Bill Gates ($700,000) and billionaire hedge fund manager Julian Robertson ($500,000). His efforts paid off: The proposition was soundly defeated and the emissions law remains intact.