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Outside group seeks to make climate change a major issue in U.S. Senate race in N.H.

FILE -- In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 file photo, businessman Tom Steyer speaks during a meeting to announce the launch of a group called Virginians for Clean Government at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.,  Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist, says he will launch a campaign next year urging California lawmakers to approve taxes on companies that extract oil in the state. The major Democratic donor said Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 that he thinks it is ridiculous that California is the only oil-producing state that does not levy such a fee, which could generate billions of dollars a year. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

FILE -- In this Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 file photo, businessman Tom Steyer speaks during a meeting to announce the launch of a group called Virginians for Clean Government at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist, says he will launch a campaign next year urging California lawmakers to approve taxes on companies that extract oil in the state. The major Democratic donor said Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 that he thinks it is ridiculous that California is the only oil-producing state that does not levy such a fee, which could generate billions of dollars a year. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A super PAC backed by liberal billionaire Tom Steyer plans to pour a significant amount of money into the New Hampshire Senate race with the goal of bringing climate change to the forefront of voters’ minds in this election cycle and beyond.

“This is about building a long-term narrative about climate change and about these issues, and New Hampshire is a place that we believe can really help drive that,” said Pete Kavanaugh, a veteran of President Obama’s campaign who is leading the group’s efforts here.

New Hampshire is one of seven states that will be ground zero for super PAC NextGen Climate’s fight this fall, alongside the Senate races in Iowa, Michigan and Colorado and gubernatorial contests in Florida, Maine and Pennsylvania. In each of these races, the group says there is a stark contrast between Republican and Democratic candidates when it comes to climate change. In New Hampshire, the effort will focus on building a sizable grassroots organizing campaign aimed at targeting voter turnout among college students, voters under 30 and independent voters. Kavanaugh said the ground game will be “cutting edge,” using many of the voter targeting and analytic strategies developed during Obama’s two campaigns.

Kavanaugh said he does not have a specific budget or staff size at this time, but that the effort will be significant. Steyer has pledged to spend at least $50 million of his own money in races this year and the super PAC is aiming to raise another $50 million.

In addition to New Hampshire’s status as an influential state in national politics, Kavanaugh said NextGen is also focusing on New Hampshire because of the state’s reliance on tourism.

Although former senator Scott Brown has to beat three Republican primary challengers before running directly against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a press release from NextGen specifically focused on Brown’s record as a reason for choosing New Hampshire as a crucial state in this effort.

Tying Brown to the oil industry – and billionaire oil executives Charles and David Koch – is at the center of the group’s strategy, which is similar to the message the New Hampshire Democratic Party and the Shaheen campaign have been peddling since Brown entered the race.

Brown has said he believes humans are contributing to climate change, but NextGen plans to focus on his ties to the oil industry and what they see as his inaction on stopping climate change. Brown took in $346,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in 2012, less than just two other senators, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. As a U.S. senator representing Massachusetts, Brown voted for more than $24 million in subsidies for the oil industry. Recent allegations that Brown helped kill an energy efficiency bill co-sponsored by Shaheen also play well into this new campaign.

“Scott Brown has a strong record supporting a clean environment, but he believes we need to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt New Hampshire’s economy,” Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Guyton said.

“Sen. Shaheen has a very different view as she supports a new national energy tax that would cost 10,000 New Hampshire jobs, increase gas prices by 20 cents per gallon and increase electricity rates up to 18 percent.”

Guyton was referring to a tax on carbon that Shaheen supported in 2013. The amendment was proposed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat.

Shaheen’s work on the energy efficiency bill is the most recent example of her commitment to act against climate change, Kavanaugh said. If passed, the legislation would have created 190,000 American jobs by 2030 and cut pollution by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road.

In March, Shaheen spoke on the Senate floor during an all-night talkathon by Democrats urging action on climate change, which she said could have a negative impact on New Hampshire’s coastal communities, fall foliage, maple sugar production, ski season and other industries that contribute to New Hampshire’s tourism industry.

“She’s always taken very pro-environment and very progressive stance on the climate change issues,” Kavanaugh said.

Political ties

Steyer’s involvement in this new push, coupled with many Republicans’ anti-climate change message, is likely to be a point of political contention. In many ways, Steyer is to Republicans what the Koch brothers are to Democrats: outside billionaires seeking to push their agenda onto New Hampshire voters.

Democrats have worked hard to vilify the Koch brothers here and nationally. The brothers have spent decades advocating for deregulation of the oil industry and have major influence in Republican circles through Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit that plans to spend $125 million in the 2014 election. Already in New Hampshire, the group has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads against Shaheen.

But Republicans now have fodder to call Shaheen a hypocrite. The same weekend that Shaheen called on Brown to sign the “People’s Pledge,” which aimed to keep third-party money out of the race, she was in California for a fundraiser at Steyer’s home.

“After railing against outside money, Sen. Shaheen is hypocritically embracing billionaire Tom Steyer’s special interest group,” Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the state Republican Party, said in a statement.

Shaheen’s campaign said she is still willing to sign the People’s Pledge if Brown agrees to it. Notably, the pledge pertains only to television and radio ads, meaning it wouldn’t prevent a group such as NextGen from spending money here on a ground game.

Steyer said he won’t benefit financially from action on climate change. All of his green energy investments are held by charitable foundations, said Suzanne Henkels, deputy press secretary for NextGen. Steyer also recently directed all of his funds to be divested from oil and tar sands companies, and said he is creating a clean-energy-only portfolio.

Voters’ views

Historically, climate change is very low on voters’ lists of priorities come Election Day. Interest in issues such as climate change, where voters see less of an impact on their daily lives, typically move more to the forefront when the economy is good, said Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

But politically, climate change is an issue that could help Democrats rally the base, which is less enthusiastic than Democrats would like going into the midterm elections, Smith said.

The organizers behind NextGen Climate action are hoping their efforts will do even more to help make climate change a leading issue. But as long as the issue is tied to politics, and a lightning rod figure like Steyer is backing the effort, bringing Republicans across the line isn’t likely, Smith said.

“When you change things from a science concern to a political issue, then people tend to want to believe what their side says,” Smith said.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments39

Steyer's entry is part of the "action-reaction" of increased campaign spending that is the result of the Roberts' court having crippled campaign finance laws. When money equals speech, escalating campaign costs make the oligarchs of any side the only players who matter. In the end, politicians of every stripe march to the tune of the high bidders, and democracy suffers.

notice no one here on the left said anything resembling that this guy should go home. Nope..it was all "paybacks a bitch" "tea baggers" and other ignorant comments. Me? I cant wait to hear all the TV watchers complain about more political ads. Happy spending Tom Steyer.

I guess you missed my reply to Itsa below. While I didn't flat-out say this guy should go home, I certainly said I oppose the use of out-of-state big money no matter which end of the political spectrum it comes from. Unfortunately we have to abide by the Citizens United ruling.

Checking back posts, couldn't find any from you telling the Kochs to take their money and go home.

and you wont...one reason is I'm not a hypocrite.

That's one way to put it. Toady to the rich and powerful might be another.

Well, complaining about billionaire progressives bringing money into the state seems to make you a hypocrite.

who is complaining? I said happy spending...!!

I have stated many times that I want money out of politics. I even compared it to the Mafia. I do you a favor, you do me a favor. I also have stated that I would like to see limits put on amounts donated.

Rabbit, I agree with you on this. Doesn't matter whether the billionaires are the "good guys" or the "bad guys". Large sums of money from a single source buy access and influence, and undermine democracy.

Didn't he play the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz?

Ha Ha. Guess you Republicans thought you had all the billionaires, didn't ya? Sauce for the goose and gander and all that sort of thing.

Well, I guess that takes the argument against the Koch Brothers off of the table. Kills that argument when you are so blissful about this nimrod spending (wasting) his money on Shaheen. I thought that you were against ouside money, etc? Guess not!

Actually, no. I don't like big out-of-state money in local politics no matter what candidates or positions it supports

One big difference between the Kochs and Steyer/Soros: the Kochs are pursuing naked self-interest--they want unregulated "free markets" to operate in, and all their efforts in the political realm are aimed at achieving this goal.

Soros is a horrible man. His history speaks for itself.

Yup. Here is proof: http://www.humanevents.com/2011/04/02/top-10-reasons-george-soros-is-dangerous/ of course progressives will complain about the source but honestly the facts on this list speak for themselves.

Those don't constitute "proof". Labelling Soros 'evil' or 'dangerous' because he supports things likeMediamatters , Planned Parenthood, Hufffington Post, and spent money to try to prevent Bush 2 from serving a second term, are opinions derived from facts. Once again--as ever, you conflate fact and opinion. You can't tell them apart.

Really? Most of what is claimed about him is either false or distorted. He's no better or worse than your run-of-the-mill billionaire. Regardless of how he made his money--and again--you don't get to his status w/o breaking a few omelets--most of his efforts these days are not acts of naked self-interest. I'm not sure the Koch brothers can make the same claim.

I guess whining Republicans would prefer Shaheen unilaterally disarm. Payback can be a bitch, purty boy.

Well, you folks want us to unilaterally disarm as a country, let's have Shaheen do it first and see how it works out, then we can discuss your plan for the country.

You can't back that claim up with any evidence that doesn't come your usual paranoid sources--impugning the patriotism of those you disagree with when there are no facts to support your claims. It's Bircher/McCarthyite smear time. Do your worst.

Alinsky tactic: "Demonize the opposition, accuse those who disagree with your of outrageous things and smear them.

Which is precisely what you do in nearly every post--make sweeping claims that are divorced from reality, such as "you folks want us to unilaterally disarm as a country". It's an absurd claim that is both false--and off-topic. The ONLY support for such claims comes from far-right sources. BTW; the right have long embraced "Alinsky tactics" , as you put it, since the Birchers were doing it in the 1950's, and before.

My goodness, that sounds like Karl Rove.

It's raining out right now. Lets hope for climate change this weekend.

The billionaire hedge fund executive who founded Farallon Capital Management in 1986 and left the company 2012 thinks of himself as an environmentalist. His track record, however, shows a different story. In 2008, Farallon heavily invested in Adaro, Indonesia’s second-largest coal company. Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal and, according to Reuters, China is Adaro’s biggest customer. In 2010, Calwatchdog points out, Steyer also did not support California's proposition 23. Rejected by California voters in November of 2010, prop 23 asked for the repeal of a law, signed by Governor Shwarzenegger in 2006, which aimed at rolling back California's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. So-called powerhouse Democratic donor Tom Steyer, who has donated $5 million to defeat Prop 23, which would suspend green power in California, runs an investment firm that holds stock in “dirty coal” and nuclear plants, oil and gas companies in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Additionally, Steyer’s investment firm holds stock in the leading photovoltaic solar panel supplier in California, Yingli Green Energy Holding Company of China.

Bring it on trust fund boy, We don't care much for out of state gadfly's. Perhaps you and Bloomberg can team up to scare the "ignorant hicks" up here, on guns and weather?

That's right! We have the divine right of ignorance, and no flatlander is going to take it away! Are you kidding me? The ultimate "out of state gadfly's[sic]" were William Loeb and Meldrim Thomson. Remember them?

Probably not. Usually the most anti newcomer is a free stater, or a libertarian, patriot tea bagger, who has been in this state since December.

You sound like a person who likes labels...perhaps you agree with the police chief in Wolfeboro?

But Laurie, there is a double standard. Like men are considered bad, women are considered good to progressives. Hard working Americans especially white men are considered bad, illegal aliens (supposedly hard working) are considered good. Tea Party members are considered bad, anyone destryoing property in the name of the environment are considered good. Name calling as progressives do it diminishes one group to trunp their arguments. It is hate speech but only if those who are not progressives do it.

You do realize you're responding to a conservative (to put it mildly) poster who on another thread blames the push to end capital punishment in NH on the fact women hold the major elective positions in this state, thus demonstrating the same "double standard" you claim "progressives" hold?

Isn't that what you call yourselves? Free Staters, Libertarians, and Tea Party

You sound like a person who would call poor people "rats",

The police chief in Wolfeboro?

The "divine right of ignorance" as well as the "divine right of emotional over reaction and hysteria" and "believe anything anyone who agrees with you politically" brands belong to NH progressives.

Ahh..irony.

Yes indeedy, irony for the Republicans who are being hit with the Citizens United billionaire bat. Too bad the Robert's court couldn't just say only Republicans are allowed to fund super pacs without limits. I see now the where the Republican party suing because they want no limits on spending. Never learn do they?

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