Jason Stverak

With Election Day less than a hundred days away, we can expect the campaign season to bring out some of the worst in human behavior. It encourages politicians, activists, and the journalists who cover them to participate in all sorts of shenanigans.

However, much of what are self-styled elite opinionmongers would dismiss as “silly” perhaps isn’t. Perhaps it’s only their failure to hold their ideological compatriots to the same standards. Take the case of billionaire hedge-fund manager and progressive megadonor Tom Steyer, who regularly commits so many of the sins conservatives are accused of--and gets a free from progressives.

Take, for example, the handwringing and hyperventilating over money in politics, which progressives argue is corrosive to democracy. It’s a cause célèbre on the left, who fight against it in the court of public opinion and in the halls of Congress. Their chief bogeyman at the moment is the Super PAC, an independent political committee that may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in support of political candidates. The Super PAC, according to many of the left, amounts to nothing less than the wholesale buying of elections.

But their squeamishness about big-dollar Super PAC donors influencing politics doesn’t seem to extend to Steyer--who is, according to the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, the single biggest Super PAC donor of this election cycle. As of the third week of July, Steyer had already shelled out a cool $20 million for progressive candidates. Liberals who decry the Super PAC always point fingers at wealthy conservative donors--but in the Sunlight Foundation’s analysis, the top five conservative Super PAC donors combined still fall short of what Steyer has dropped on this year’s races.

And this year, every major fact-checking organization has long been on the record against a wild claim that Steyer’s Super PAC, NextGen Climate Action, recently made in Iowa against Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst. In short, an ad run by the Steyer group charges that Ernst’s signing of Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge is tantamount to support for American companies sending jobs overseas. The Pledge, Steyer’s ad argues, protects tax credits for those companies despite the pledge including no such promises.


Jason Stverak

Jason Stverak is the President of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.