It's not surprising that the Republicans would run attack ads making a big deal out of Tom Steyer, the California billionaire who, as part of his pledge to spend $100 million electing green Democrats nationwide, has put $1.25 million into Washington's state senate election. Steyer's NextGen Climate Action PAC is backing Democrats in key races such as the 45th the 28th Legislative Districts, giving $750,000 to the Washington Conservation Voters who are behind several independent expenditures in those key districts knocking the Republican candidates on their environmental records.
A script portraying Steyer as a wealthy, out-of-state busy body with an agenda to hinder the free market fits right into the traditional Republican game plan to cast Democrats as elitist nanny-staters who care more about arugula and almond milk than about middle class issues.
There is some dissonance in the GOP messaging, though. The Republican committee that's funding these shaming ads, the Leadership Council, got $22,500 from Tesoro Petroleum itself...
But that's not the script the GOP is using. The latest mailers from the Good Government Leadership Council, the Republicans' state senate PAC, which hit this weekend in the run-up to Tuesday, are going after Steyer for being "One of the worst carbon polluters in the world."
This is another standard political ploy—turning someone's strength (in this instance, the Democrats' reputation for taking climate change more seriously than Republicans) into a weakness (they're actually backed by polluters.)
Check out the identical mailers that went out this weekend in the 45th (where Democrat Matt Isenhower is running against incumbent Republican state Sen. Andy Hill, R-45, Redmond), in the 35th (where bona fide Democrat Irene Bowling is running against state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-35, Potlatch, a dissident Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans, and in the 28th (where state Rep. Tami Green, D-28, Tacoma, is running against incumbent Republican state Sen. Steve O'Ban, R-28, Lakewood).
A New York Times report earlier this summer uncovered the irony that Steyer, now a rabid environmentalist, has a not-so-green past as a businessman: "Over the past 15 years, Mr. Steyer’s fund, Farallon Capital Management, has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into companies that operate coal mines and coal-fired power plants from Indonesia to China..."
Steyer actually sold his stake in Farallon in 2012, the NYT reports, but the investments will help the plants for many years to come, and he's still a "passive investor" in the company, the Times notes; though Farallon supposedly screens Steyer's investments so they don't fund fossil fuels.
There is some dissonance in the GOP messaging, though. The Republican committee that's funding these shaming ads, the Leadership Council, got $22,500 from Tesoro Petroleum, $10,000 from local coal-fired plant Transalta, $5,000 from the Natural Gas PAC—not to mention $20,000 from sprawl poster child Wal-Mart, and $5,000 from environmental bad guy, Monsanto.
Meanwhile, the latest GOP ad features a pledge against a $1 increase in the price of gas from Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's low-carbon fuel standards proposal which contradicts the GOP's mailers which rail against fossil fuels.
Here's the ad, which by the way, makes the traditional hit against Steyer as an "out of state billionaire."
The Washington State GOP got $100,000 from the Leadership Council.