The $10 million that Democrats hope NextGen Climate will drop into Florida’s gubernatorial election is just a drop in a $150 million ocean of political advertising saturating the Sunshine State’s media. But every little drop adds up, right?
Tom Steyer, the California businessman and climate-change activist who is behind the NextGen Climate organization and its political action committee, has targeted Florida as one of the states where the impact of climate change will be the worst, and as a result, one of the states where his organization will spend the most.
Before retiring from the private sector, according to his bio on the NextGen website, Steyer founded Farallon Capital Management. He also was a managing director and member of the Investment Committee at Hellman & Friedman.
Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, joined Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates and other high-wealth Americans in the “Giving Pledge,” a promise to donate the majority of their wealth to charitable and nonprofit activities during their lifetimes.
Part of those activities is a new organization and political action committee, NextGen Climate, launched in 2013 by Steyer. He is using it to campaign against politicians, mostly Republicans, whom he sees as climate-change deniers.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is at the top of the list.
The NextGen Climate website claims Florida’s drinking water supply is at risk because of rising sea levels brought on by climate change, homeowners will feel the impacts of rising flood insurance costs, and 2.4 million people, 1.3 million homes and 1.8 million acres of land in the state are vulnerable to flooding from rising sea levels.
The Miami Herald reported Florida Democrats think Steyer might pour as much as $10 million into Florida to back their candidate for governor, Charlie Crist, against the man they want to replace, Scott.
Steyer has already invested $750,000 in Florida out of the $100 million he has promised to spend nationwide to defeat politicians who doubt the science of climate change.
Three years ago, Scott said that he doubted human activity would be able to make the Earth warmer and eventually uninhabitable. Lately, Scott has said that because he is not a scientist, he declines to endorse or dispute the idea of climate change.
The NextGen Climate media blitz against Scott began Aug. 8 with two 30-second TV ads, “Shock” and “Foundation.” According to a NextGen Climate statement that was released to announce the campaign, “Shock” and “Foundation” are intended to demonstrate Scott’s history of “standing with corporate energy interests at the expense of Florida’s kids, health and economy.”
The “Shock” ad connects Scott to Duke Energy, “one defective power plant, and another never built,” the narrator explains, while a graphic shows Floridians are “still on the hook for $3.2 billion.”
In “Fountain,” Scott is linked to a fracking operation in the Florida Everglades that environmentalists consider to be dangerous, while collecting a $200,000 campaign donation from “oil interests.”
Scott has released his own environmental plan, “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful.” It does not mention the phrase “climate change.”
A NextGen Climate blogger wrote that was “an omission which dovetails nicely with Scott’s reputation for avoiding tough questions by throwing up an impenetrable wall of nonsense.”
However, Scott does propose spending $150 million a year for the state’s environmental and conservation land-buying programs known as Florida Forever, $1 billion on a program to restore the Everglades, and “hitting polluters and bad actors with tougher penalties.”
“Florida’s natural beauty is a big reason why this is the best state in the country to call home. Our natural resources are the foundation of our economy. They drive tourism, housing, business, and agriculture and they deserve our long-term commitment,” Scott said in a statement released with the Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful plan.
“We’ve made record investments in Florida’s environment, but there’s more work to be done. With a $1 billion investment in Florida’s waters, an ongoing commitment to the everglades, and tougher penalties for bad actors, we’ll ensure that Florida’s treasures are protected for generations to come.”
That is not good enough for NextGen Climate or a group of ten scientists in Florida. They have been granted a 10-minute meeting with Scott on Aug. 19 to press their case for climate change.
However, the Scott camp says Crist’s pro-environmentalist message rang hollow on July 25, when the former governor flew to an environmental press conference on a private jet owned by James Finch, a developer who was fined twice for violating pollution rules in Florida.
If only because of the emotions on both sides of the climate change debate, the issue of global warming is heating the Florida governor’s race to a boil.
The Scott-Crist race was already one of the tightest gubernatorial campaigns in the nation before the news broke that NextGen Climate and Tom Steyer were ready to invest millions of dollars on the side of the Crist campaign.
A Quinnipiac poll had Crist in the lead by five points July 21. But a CBS News/New York Times poll put Scott in the lead by five points three days later.
Since then the race has been too close to call, with Scott’s one- or two-point lead evaporating in the margin of error.
A more recent poll, WFLA-TV’s tracking poll conducted by SurveyUSA and released Aug. 4, showed Scott at 45 percent compared to Crist’s 43 percent.
As hot as it’s getting in Florida, and it gets plenty hot in the summer, when asked by reporters during a campaign stop in Miami if he was worried about the NextGen Climate Pac avalanche of money that was about to rain down on his campaign, Scott simply said, “No.”