Tom Steyer’s NextGen PAC starts anti-Rick Scott campaign with $750K boost

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Billionaire liberal environmentalist Tom Steyer has his sights set on Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Steyer’s San Francisco-based NextGen Climate Action Committee is mounting an on-the-ground campaign to aid Democrats and attack Republicans in key Senate and gubernatorial races, part of a $100 million effort to put climate change in the forefront in the November midterms.

Scott is on the NextGen Climate website as one of seven targeted GOP candidates.

As a start, he gave $750,000 last month to its Florida committee, making it the first contribution in the state.

Steyer, a former hedge fund executive, is using his $1.6 billion net worth to form the NextGen Climate Action Super PAC, which concentrates on campaigns against candidates he sees as bad for the environment.

In addition to focusing on Scott, other objectives are Senate races with Democratic-held seats with serious Republican challenges, as in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire as well as governor’s races in Maine and Pennsylvania.

“Floridians can’t afford to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott,” NextGen spokesperson Suzanne Henkels told Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News. “As a climate denier who refuses to accept basic scientific fact, he has put Florida’s communities, infrastructure and economy directly in harm’s way.”

ChBarbara Stiefel, a Democratic activist from Coral Gables, gave NextGen Climate $100,000. She also donated $1 million to support Florida’s two constitutional amendments on the ballot in November, seeking to legalize medical marijuana and heighten conservation spending.

NextGen Climate is designated an “electioneering communication organization” to buy television commercials, mail pieces and get out the vote programs for Hispanics and the young, who often do not go to the polls during midterm election cycles.

In recent weeks, the environment has become a more prevalent issue in Florida’s gubernatorial race.

Scott declined to meet with scientists wanting to discuss climate change, leading his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, to schedule two meetings open to the press. Unfortunately, that decision turned sour when Crist traveled to the events in a private jet owned by a developer whose corporation was fined by the state for water pollution.

NextGen Climate not only plans to attack Scott for doubting the human role in climate change, but also paint him as obligated to BP because of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Another strategy is to concentrate attention on rising sea levels and escalating flood insurance costs.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.