WASHINGTON (AP) — Setting his sights on Republicans who reject climate change, an environmentalist billionaire is unveiling plans to spend $100 million this year in seven competitive Senate and gubernatorial races, as his super PAC works to counteract a flood of conservative spending by the Koch brothers.
NextGen Climate Action said it plans to spend at least $50 million contributed by founder Tom Steyer, a retired hedge fund manager and longtime Democratic donor, and another $50 million the group is seeking to raise from likeminded donors. The money will be used to back Democrats and attack Republicans running for Senate in New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Michigan, and for governor in Pennsylvania, Florida and Maine.
"Our goal is very clear: to impact the politics as it relates to climate in a time period that will result in policies that allow our country and the world to avoid the perils of climate change," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist advising the super PAC. "In a sense, it's a race against time."
With Democrats on the defensive this year in races across the country, Steyer is pursuing a two-pronged goal: helping Democrats keep the Senate and capture governor's mansions, and elevating climate change as a make-or-break issue for voters. That effort comes despite the fact that Democrats are fighting most of their toughest races this year in conservative, oil-dependent states where even Democrats are seeking to fashion themselves as friendly to energy industry.
The playbook, Lehane and other NextGen officials said Wednesday, is to adopt strategies that have been effective in other cultural fights over tobacco, recycling and women's suffrage: persuade voters that climate change is a matter of right versus wrong, then use the issue to drive a "wedge" between voters and Republicans who align themselves with what environmentalists argue is the wrong side of history.
To that end, NextGen will order up television ads that drill down on how climate change is already upsetting the environment in each state, hoping to transform climate change from a hypothetical issue to a pocketbook issue. Voters in those states can expect a steady dose of hard-hitting ads mocking GOP candidates for questioning the science that says climate change is real.
In Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott is fighting for another term, NextGen said it plans to remind voters how climate change will raise their premiums for flood insurance and affect the state's drinking water. They also plan to attack Scott for initially refusing to join a multi-state lawsuit against BP after the 2010 oil spill.
Republican Scott Brown, who is running for the Senate in New Hampshire, will likely get hit with ads deriding a recent op-ed he penned backing the Keystone XL pipeline that "spouted regular Republican talking points that are absolute misinformation," said Sky Gallegos, NextGen's political director.
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