The Republican supporting billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have been challenged to a debate by liberal billionaire Tom Steyer.
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California hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion, which makes him the wealthiest environmental activist in a world where billionaires do not ordinarily support environmental causes. Steyer recently spent over $10 million in a campaign to stop the keystone oil pipeline that was to run between the U.S. and Canada and which was denounced by green activists who believed that it would disrupt the ecology of the areas through which it was planned to go.
On Friday night’s comedic political discussion show on the cable for pay entertainment channel HBO, the NextGenClimate Public action committee’s founder challenged the billionaire Koch brothers to a debate on the environment in response to Charles Koch’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal in which he called for more “free and open debate” about climate change.
NextGenClimate is a non profit organization which supports political candidates across America who agree that climate change is a problem and who want to do something about it. Mr. Steyer has committed $100 million of his own fortune to that cause.
Charles and David Koch are known to believe that there is no climate change and they have their own PACs which contribute heavily to Republican politicians in the United States where environmentalism has become a politically divisive issue between conservatives and liberals.
Steyer told Bill Maher that, “They can do a nice two-on-one, so they can have the advantage. I have the advantage of the facts, they have the advantage of the numbers, ” referring to the fact that there are two Koch brothers’ and only one of him.
A vocal proponent of climate change and known liberal himself, Bill Maher began the interview by saying, “so people are kind of calling you the liberal Koch brother, ” and later said to Steyer, “You seem to get it, that what’s more important than money is breathing”
He distinguished Steyer from the Kochs by saying, “they’re bad and you’re good.”
In response Steyer said, “We’re trying to act on behalf of the general public and our kids and they seem to be acting out of their economic self-interest. That’s one big difference. We accept basic science and they seem to be denying basic science. And the last thing is, we’re trying pretty hard to be transparent, sitting on your show, and they seem to be sitting in the shadows acting anonymously and we find that scary.”
Bill Maher said that he would be happy to host such a debate on his show but that he would not hold his breath while waiting for the Koch brothers to accept the challenge.
NextGenClimate wasted no time in posting an on line petition for people to sign on its web site which calls on the Koch brothers to accept the challenge to debate.
In an interview with Politico before the Maher Show, Mr. Steyer denied that he was a liberal version of the Koch brothers.
Tom Steyer was born and raised in New York City. Steyer graduated from Yale University, Summa Cum Laude in Economics and Political Science going on to be awarded an MBA from Stanford Business School, before beginning his professional career with Morgan Stanley in 1979. Tom left Morgan Stanley to join Goldman Sachs where he worked for two years as an associate in the risk arbitrage department under Robert Rubin, leaving in 1985 to join Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based $8 billion private equity firm.
Since 1986, Steyer has been a partner and member of the Executive Committee at Hellman & Friedman, while at the same time founding and managing Farallon Capital Management, LLC, building it to a company with a worldwide presence. Farallon is described as being one of the first multi-strategy funds , handling a broad spectrum of domestic and international investments, on behalf of Farallon’s institutional investors , mainly made up from college endowments and non- profit foundations.
Thomas Steyer is also co-founder, with his wife Kit, of the OneCalifornia Bank, an Oakland-based community development bank. The bank was established with the purpose to provide loan facilities as well as other banking services to small businesses, local communities, and individuals in California.
Steyer announced in October 2012 that he would be stepping down from his position at Farallon in order to focus on political activism, in particular on advocating for alternative energy. He cited his desire to focus on giving back “full time” and to revolve his life around service.
In the same year, Tom Steyer, his wife Kit, along with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, were the first to sign a Giving Pledge in which they undertook to donate half their fortune to charity. Steyer also says on the board of Next Generation, a non-profit organization focused on tackling issues relating to the environment.