Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer announced he will mount a bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president on Tuesday, an about-face after saying earlier this year he would not run.
“If you think that there’s something absolutely critical, try as hard as you can and let the chips fall where they may and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” Steyer said in a video announcing his bid. The announcement is largely focused on corporate influence in politics, which Steyer argues has resulted in a “broken political system.”
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The former businessman has crisscrossed the country in recent months, holding town halls and meeting with voters to focus on his national campaign to pressure lawmakers into impeaching President Donald Trump. He poured hundreds of millions of dollars into last year’s midterms to support Democrats and teased a presidential run up until a January announcement in Iowa that he was not running.
Though environmental issues are key for Steyer, climate change was not a major feature of his announcement pitch.
Instead, Steyer argued in his announcement video that issues like climate change stem from the broader issue of corporate greed and politicians who fail to hold corporations accountable.
“It’s thousands of people doing what they’re paid to do,” Steyer said in the video, alongside footage of melting ice caps, opioids and congressional hearings during the 2008 recession. “Almost every single major intractable problem, at the back of it, you see a big money interest for whom stopping progress, stopping justice is deeply important to their bottom line.”
Steyer heads NextGen America, which focuses on turning out the youth vote, and Need to Impeach, one of the major groups pushing to oust Trump. In a tweet Tuesday, he said he would continue to support those groups. But he added that the work they’d accomplished is “not enough.”
Steyer held a conference call with his staff last week to announce his plans, sources told POLITICO. The philanthropist will likely be a long shot in the crowded field of two dozen candidates vying to take on Trump next year, many of whom are struggling to break 1 or 2 percent in the polls.
His comparatively late start also presents a steep challenge if he wants to make it onto the debate stage later this month or the next by reaching either the donor or polling thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee.