By Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Billionaire Tom Steyer, the former hedge-fund manager turned liberal activist, has decided that donating millions of dollars to Democrats in the hope that they impeach Donald Trump is not enough. Party leadership is in no rush to pull the trigger, especially if the Robert Mueller report isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Democratic presidential candidates are hesitant to weigh in. “If you’re too scared to talk about the crisis that is this president, then you’re too scared to BE president,” he tweeted Thursday night. So Steyer is putting away the carrot and taking out the stick.
On Thursday, Steyer announced that he is launching a new political action committee to turn up the heat on key Democrats by going behind their backs and into their districts with a pro-impeachment TV and advertising blitz. According to Politico, Steyer’s top targets include three of the most powerful Democrats in the House: Oversight Chairman Elijah Cumming, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, and Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal. Other potential targets include Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and even Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Kevin Mack, Steyer’s lead strategist, told Politico that the goal isn’t to put money behind primary challengers—at least not yet. But the group has virtually unlimited money to spend on staff, ads, and volunteers. “Why does Steny Hoyer get a pass, why does Jim Clyburn get a pass?” Mack said. “They’re all hiding behind the Mueller report.”
The Need to Impeach PAC, which currently has a $40 million war chest, will hold its first event in Springfield, Massachusetts—an “Impeachment Town Hall” with the express purpose of encouraging the residents of Springfield to demand that Representative Neal start looking into impeachment by subpoenaing the president’s tax returns. They will also spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads to run in Neal’s district, with messages like “It’s time to hold Donald Trump accountable, and we can do our part here in Massachusetts. All we need is our Congressman Richard Neal to be with us.” (Neal is reportedly consulting legal experts on how to take the “unprecedented” step of subpoenaing the tax returns.)
The power play might be construed as an attempt to take politicians hostage—do as I say, and I won’t remove you from office. But Steyer sees it differently. “There’s a gigantic cost to not listening to your constituents,” he explained to Politico. “There’s a gigantic cost to thumbing your nose at democracy.”
Pelosi, for her part, pointed out the irony of saying that Steyer was a representative of their constituents: “Wait a minute, let me get this straight; a billionaire from California is coming into the district to spend money against Richie [Richard Neal], who used to be the mayor of Springfield, and is now the chairman of the Ways and Means committee who is making us very proud of Massachusetts,” she said, calling Steyer’s effort “a waste of time and money.”
Pelosi, a veteran legislator, has repeatedly stated on the record that she is holding off on a push for impeachment, arguing that the political risk is too high. Even if Pelosi and the House pass articles of impeachment against Trump, the Senate, still controlled by Republicans under the direction of Mitch McConnell, is unlikely to convict and remove him.
Steyer doesn’t buy that argument. “We’re not saying, ‘We’re so brilliant, listen to us,’ we’re saying, ‘Listen to your constituents,’” Steyer said. “It’s not like we can just hold our breath until something happens.”
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