Morgan Liddick
Special to the Daily

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May 5, 2014
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Liddick: On Colorado’s left, a drought of ideas, a surplus of mud

The left in Colorado is out of good arguments. Even before the full-contact steel-cage death match phase of the 2014 political campaign begins, they’ve got nothing left but mud.

Exhibit A is the current attack ad by the League of Conservation Voters targeting Corey Gardner. We’ve all seen it: Son-of-Satan graphics, impending-doom music, cartoon oil barrels rolling across the screen spewing sludge only slightly less obnoxious than the claims being made. And as background, the Bogeyman-fetish of the left being shaken at the wooden-headed Democrat base, to rouse their fury: the Koch brothers.

This hit-piece has a certain “truthiness” about it: Mr. Gardner has taken money from energy-sector interests. But it is unclear that he is connected to the Kochs – unlike current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose memory seems to have lapsed concerning his acceptance of money from a Koch lobbyist. Or Sen. Chuck Schumer, who accepted $5,000 from them in 2011, thanked them profusely, and then accused them of corrupting politics. Or Sen. Patty Murray who, as chairperson of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, solicited Koch Industries for a $50,000 donation in 2011. One might observe from this that Democrats exercise a certain selectivity in their concerns about “money in politics,” but the problem is uglier than simple hypocrisy.

Allow me to introduce a man who will undoubtedly be a force in the 2014 election cycle. A billionaire hedge-fund manager, he made most of his money financing coal mining and thermal power plants in Asia and India. He has founded two political action committees, one of which as a 501(c)3 organization does not have to divulge its donors. He openly boasts that he will spend at least $100 million in 2014 to elect candidates of his liking. In a Feb. 17 New York Times interview, he called this a “really cheap price” to get the outcomes he wanted.

Why haven’t we heard more about this tycoon who — to borrow Harry Reid’s phrase — “wants to buy America?” The answer is simple, and lays bare the soul of those who complain about the Koch brothers’ money in politics: Tom Steyer is a Democrat, and he donates lavishly to leftist and progressive causes, including the Center for American Progress.

In the 2012 campaigns and subsequently, he spent as much as $50 million on various races. We don’t know exactly how much, but his money can be traced to Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington state through his “NextGen Climate Action Committee,” whose ads in one race were given “Pants on Fire” ratings by Politifact. Look for much more of the same this year.

True, lying in politics is nothing new; it’s a fact, like gravity or the weather. But when lies are accepted because the usual gatekeepers of the media and political opposition are nodding in agreement or paralyzed by fear, men like Tom Steyer are free to connive with their political allies to become rich by robbing the public.

Tom Steyer claims to be a principled proponent of “green energy,” who is pouring rivers of money into politics to save the planet. He is not. Steyer is a crony capitalist; a rent-seeker who wants to use his political connections to pick your pocket. He has a history of doing it. In 2012, he sponsored a proposition in California which would have imposed a $1.1 billion tax on out-of-state businesses and funneled the proceeds to “green energy,” in which his hedge fund had just invested heavily. As a major Obama bundler, Steyer enjoys easy access to the White House and Administration officials, including those who regulate and subsidize alternative fuel plants in which he has also recently invested. He met with West Wing officials four times last year, and two months ago hosted a get-together on his 1,800-acre San Francisco exurb ranch for “California’s environmental intelligentsia” and 26 senators, including Barbara Boxer and Sheldon Whitehouse.

One of the topics in this meeting was the Keystone pipeline; specifically how to elect legislators who oppose, and punish those who support it. The last time financial documents were filed for Steyer’s hedge fund, it had substantial holdings of Kinder-Morgan, a backer of pipelines competing with the proposed Keystone XL. Commonsense arguments in favor of Keystone aside — who would burn Canada’s oil more cleanly, the United States or China? — there is a nastier question about why Steyer is buying politicians who oppose it. Perhaps he calculates that Keystone’s failure will at least increase the value of his holdings in Fuel Systems Solutions, a natural gas company.

So when mud is flung in the upcoming campaign, when oil barrels spill their sludge, we should all ask “who’s paying for this?”

And figure out what’s in it for them.

Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County.


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The Summit Daily Updated May 5, 2014 07:22PM Published May 6, 2014 11:08AM Copyright 2014 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.