California billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer continues to spend heavily on research and polling in Colorado ahead of the 2016 election. In March and April, he dropped another $109,000 on polling services, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.
This brings his running total for Colorado research and polling this election cycle to more than $793,000. That’s 57 percent more than Steyer spent on these services during the entire 2014 election cycle in Colorado, when he organized an $8.5 million effort to save former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D). And remember, there’s still more than five months left until Election Day.
“It’s an extraordinary amount of money for research and polling, which is typically a modest percentage of your overall campaign spending,” pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli said in an interview. “He’s getting into the granular kind of research that could be used in different races up and down the ballot, including the state legislature and congressional seats.”
“If you’ve heard of the Blueprint, this could be the Greenprint,” Ciruli said.
“The Blueprint” was an effort launched by left-wing donors and political organizations more than a decade ago to put Democrats in control of the Colorado General Assembly, using millions of dollars of coordinated spending from outside groups. The same political operation that delivered control of the state legislature to Democrats was later used to flip congressional and U.S. Senate seats and even the governor’s mansion from red to blue.
Based on Steyer’s track record in Colorado since the 2014 election, an updated Blueprint to push the California billionaire’s environmental agenda is a strong possibility. Steyer wants to eliminate fossil-fuel energy sources – also called hydrocarbons – and force households and businesses to use more expensive alternatives like wind turbines, solar panels and cars that run on electric batteries. Through his political action committee, NextGen Climate, he also supports the government cracking down on think tanks and companies that criticize his agenda.
In 2015, Steyer forged close ties with Conservation Colorado, the state’s leading environmental group. Conservation Colorado and another group supported by Steyer – America Votes – later provided startup funding for Fairness for Colorado, a 527 political organization. One of the leading players in The Blueprint, software millionaire Tim Gill, also contributed to the new 527 group.
Last September, more than a year before Election Day, Fairness for Colorado started a series of attack mailers against State Sen. Laura Woods (R), whose district takes in Westminster and Arvada. Republicans currently hold a one-seat majority in the state Senate, with Democrats controlling the House and the governor’s mansion. By attacking Woods, Steyer’s allies are helping Democrats in their bid to reclaim control of the state legislature and restore one-party rule under Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).
The FEC records on NextGen Climate also reveal that Steyer has enlisted one of the top lieutenants of The Blueprint to run his research and polling operation in Colorado this election cycle.
Almost all the money the billionaire has spent in Colorado this election cycle has gone to just one firm – Project New America. Located in Denver, just a few blocks from the State Capitol, the polling firm’s president and CEO is Jill Hanauer. She was one of a handful of political operatives who coordinated millions of dollars in outside spending from 527 political organizations in the mid-2000s, according to the definitive history of The Blueprint, authored by Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer.
According to Ciruli, Steyer’s spending on Colorado research and polling – almost $800,000 so far this election cycle – will more likely be used to support candidates than a series of proposed anti-fracking initiatives for the statewide ballot this year.
Gov. Hickenlooper – who opposed similar measures in 2014, calling them “extreme” and “radical” – recently said there’s only a “small minority” on the political left who want to “ban all hydrocarbons.” Therefore, Steyer may accomplish more of his environmental objectives if the billionaire’s preferred candidates are elected to key positions in state and federal politics.
“With that amount of money, he’s looking for vertical control of the ballot, taking over the state for his environmental agenda,” Ciruli said. “And it’s a pretty extreme agenda. It is anti-hydrocarbon, it is anti-growth in general.”
Indeed it is. The voters deserve a real discussion of Steyer’s role in Colorado, his political agenda, and the consequences it holds for our state. For the most part, they’re not getting one, and that needs to change.
Simon Lomax is an associate energy policy analyst with the Independence Institute and a consultant who advises pro-business groups. From 2004 to 2012, he was a news reporter covering energy and environmental policy in Washington, D.C. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.