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Tom Steyer. That’s a name most Washingtonians have almost certainly never heard of. Yet Steyer – a California billionaire who made his money the same way former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did, private equity investments – has taken a direct interest in influencing politics and issues in Washington state.

Steyer created the “NextGen Action Committee,” a recently formed political action committee based in Sacramento, Calif. Steyer has poured $3.8 million into NextGen so far, $150,000 of which found its way into the “She’s Changed PAC.” She’s Changed PAC is running an attack campaign aimed at stopping state Rep. Jan Angel (R) in her bid to unseat Democratic state Sen. Nathan Schlicher (D).

Angel came through the August primary with a double-digit lead despite the wave of cash Steyer threw against her. Nevertheless, the hardest fight may still be ahead. Rumors around Olympia indicate that Steyer may devote as much as $750,000 to trying to keep Angel from winning in November and thus stemming a slow but steady trend of Republican and conservative gains in the state Senate.

Pickups in 2008 and 2010 – combined with the presence of two fiscally conservative and reform-minded Democratic state senators – made this year’s game-changing Majority Coalition Caucus possible.

Having one more Republican vote in the state Senate opens political possibilities on budget, taxes, and policy that the GOP has not had available to it for more than half a decade.

So what is Steyer’s endgame? Everett Herald columnist Jerry Cornfield wrote in August about NextGen’s focused environmental agenda, one that might not be so beneficial for Washington state’s desire to revive its flagging reputation as a business-friendly state.

From the Everett Herald:

“…[Next Generation] describes its mission as promoting solutions to “two of the biggest challenges confronting the next generation of Americans: The risk of dangerous climate change, and the threat of diminished prospects for children and families.”

“Next Generation takes lessons learned from California, America’s largest, most populous state, and helps spread innovative ideas that can be enacted through public policy, private enterprise, families, and individual,” according to its site.

Cornfield also quoted from a press release issued after a Seattle global warming event at which Steyer shared time with Gov. Jay Inslee.

“What are we on the West Coast going to do about the bigger picture of climate change?” Steyer asked during his keynote address. “I think the solution is pretty straightforward: the West Coast needs to lead. And we will do so by exploiting every opportunity in the proposition process, the electoral process and the legislative process. It’s a big task.”


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