National Politics

Florida booster Steyer says he won’t trim grassroots spending amid presidential run

City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, left, joined billionaire Tom Steyer, founder of NextGen America, during a panel in 2018 to launch a voting drive in Florida and to talk about the importance of young people voting in the midterm election.
City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, left, joined billionaire Tom Steyer, founder of NextGen America, during a panel in 2018 to launch a voting drive in Florida and to talk about the importance of young people voting in the midterm election. pportal@miamiherald.com

Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer — among the largest Democratic boosters in Florida in recent years — says his newly launched presidential campaign won’t detract from his investment in political causes in the country’s premier battleground state.

Steyer, who announced Tuesday that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for president, also announced that he’s stepping down as president of NextGen America, a youth-oriented Super PAC that has spent millions of dollars on Florida campaigns and registered tens of thousands of voters in the state.

Steyer’s campaign has reportedly said he’ll spend at least $100 million on his presidential run. But he also said he won’t reduce his commitment to NextGen, which gets most of its funding from the California hedge fund manager.

Federal and state campaign laws prevent his presidential campaign from coordinating with his former Super PAC, but Steyer said he’s sticking by a commitment to donate $50 million to NextGen and Need to Impeach, another political organization founded by Steyer.

“NextGen America’s grassroots campaign will be active through the end of the 2020 election to register and mobilize young voters,” Steyer’s campaign said Tuesday.

That’s a crucial promise for Democratic strategists. While Steyer’s money hasn’t necessarily yielded wins for the party, they need it to help organize and fund voter outreach and registration efforts in a state that could swing the results of the 2020 presidential election.

NextGen has been especially active in Florida, where the organizers say they registered 52,000 voters last year and spent more than $5 million in support of the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum. Overall, NextGen’s Florida branch has spent more than $29 million total in Florida campaigns since 2014.

NextGen also contributes millions to For Our Future, another Super PAC that has played an integral role in voter outreach efforts in the state.

Ben Wessel, the new executive director for NextGen America, said Tuesday that NextGen won’t be endorsing in the presidential campaign and will not coordinate with any campaigns. He said the organization remains “committed to organizing young people in key battleground states to make progress on the issues facing our generation.”

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