tom steyer

Tom Steyer: Environmental Champion or Profiteer?

Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm Green

“Tom Steyer is a classic one-percenter,” Says Washington Times reporter, Kelley Riddell. According to her report, Steyer is worth about $1.5 billion, thanks to his trusty hedge fund. Steyer’s track record of business-savvy moves have caused many to question his recent support of environmental causes. This includes a huge push against the Keystone XL Pipeline and a pledge of $100 million to Democratic candidates with pro-green goals.

Riddell questions the legality of Steyer’s wealth. She reports that the billionaire has numerous off-shore accounts and corporations in known tax shelters like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. According to the U.S. citizens for tax reform, business models like Steyer’s are depriving the U.S. of $86.5 billion tax dollars each year. (An amount that FATCA supporters could only dream of retrieving.)

Riddell isn’t the only one to question Steyer’s motives. A recent piece in the New York Times revealed, “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…”

These factories may operate until 2030, meaning that Steyer has far more than a dark past—he has a dark future ahead of him to. Though he sold his ownership stake in the company, Steyer’s aids told the New York Times that he is still a passive investor. Regardless, Mr. Steyer has moved to the top levels of political influence thanks to his alleged concern for the environment.

Steyer has come to his own defense. His response in Politico explained,

“The more I learned about the energy and climate problems we currently face, the more I realized I had to change my life. I concluded that the best way to align my work with my beliefs was to make a real change—leaving my role managing a firm with investments across the industrial spectrum, and instead joining in the global effort to find a solution to climate change once and for all.”

So what’s your take on Tom Steyer? Did he have a change of heart or is he simply looking to profit from America’s growing environmental concerns? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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