Tom Steyer Won't Tell You Where His Money Comes From So Please Make Him President
Billionaire Tom Steyer's vanity campaign for president is coming along nicely. He's bought his way onto the stage for the next Democratic debate. Sure, he doesn't propose stopping hurricanes with mental telepathy but he's still not remotely qualified for the job. We've tried electing rich white guys with no political experience. We don't think it'll work out better even if Steyer's significantly less racist.
One big issue -- and there are so many -- with Donald Trump is that he keeps his skeevy finances on the QT and very hush-hush. Turns out Steyer doesn't want to tell us where his money comes from, either. He gave a "broad view of his extensive assets and sources of income," but he won't go into detail about "significant segments of his investment portfolio" because of confidentiality agreements and other reasons that benefit rich guys.
Steyer's down low assets have a reported worth between $370 million and $742 million. That's quite a range. And the total could be even higher. It's at the point where you don't even bother counting the money any more. His financial advisers could be stealing from him and he'd never notice, like barnacles on a whale.
The Office of Government Ethics was repeatedly told to fuck off by Steyer in the most polite legalese. Regarding his holdings in 43 different "investment vehicles," Steyer stated that "underlying assets are not disclosed due to a preexisting confidentiality agreement." But don't worry. He pledges to fully divest from them all if he's elected president. Wait ... why can't he do that now?
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This is all perfectly legal, because rich people and their paid puppets write most of our laws. On a classic "Law & Order," Jack McCoy could work around certain legal obstacles (because he's AWESOME), especially if the defendant made a specific claim that McCoy could pounce on with testimony that refuted it. "Your client opened the door" is what the judge would say. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter that Steyer has ripped the door off its hinges with his repeated claim that he's purged his portfolio of extensive fossil-fuel holdings after becoming a born-again environmental activist.
Steyer said as recently as July that he's "divested from all of that stuff," and we just have to take his word for it! That's America. Trump made similar pinkie swears in 2016. Steyer might have an honest bone in his body and could at least afford a transplant, but we'd rather not have to rely on the good faith of billionaires. We should require them to put up or just shut up and vote for Liz Warren.
STEYER CAMPAIGN: Tom has divested from Farallon's fossil fuel holdings and has provided all investment funds with a copy of his investment policy so that they can be screened clear of fossil fuel holdings. If any investments don't meet Tom's screening, the proceeds from those investments are donated to charity.
Oh, that seems totally on the up and up. They'll build schools and hospitals with any naughty oil and coal money. Then they'll slap Steyer's name on them. Everyone's a winner! He's such a benevolent overlord we might as well make him president.
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Steyer has a sweet deal. Kirsten Gillibrand couldn't keep her past defending tobacco executives secret. There are no "confidentiality agreements" for Kamala Harris's prosecutorial record. Warren is called a "hypocrite" for using money raised from "high-dollar fundraisers" before she stopped having them as a presidential candidate. When is a Biden campaign surrogate going to call Steyer a hypocrite? He brags about spending $100 million of his own money on his campaign. How much of that was earned from investments in the fossil fuel industry? There's no way we'll ever know.
We confess that Steyer is the type of billionaire who annoys us. He likes to present himself as your average ragpicker among the elite. A 2013 profile describes how Steyer "drives an old Honda hybrid, wears wool plaid ties and prefers camping to the Four Seasons." His wife Kathryn "Kate" Taylor runs a "small" bank in a "gritty" (eye roll) part of Oakland. She even has SIX tattoos like a punk rocker or someone with access to a tattoo parlor. She claims, "There's no doubt if I turned up for a black tie event at the Pacific Union Club, I might not be what people expect to see."
Lady, you're a billionaire. You're exactly what an exclusive social club expects to see. You might even own the Pacific Union Club. Check your confidentiality agreements and get back to us.
The big struggle and debate within the Democratic Party is whether we're going to pursue policies that work for all of us -- or dare to choose leaders who represent most of us. We're past the days of billionaires who want us to consider them heroes for donating their obscene wealth after they've dead, and all they ask for in return is to let them run the world unchallenged.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.