Why Tom Steyer’s Climate Group Isn’t Just Hitting Candidates On Climate

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Something unexpected has been happening with billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate group: the organization has been hitting Republicans on things other than climate change.

The latest example came on Wednesday when the group released a set of ads hitting Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land (MI) for taking money from David H. Koch and Charles Koch. The ad hits the Koch brothers for dumping Petroleum Coke “some of the dirtiest oil waste imaginable” in a part of Michigan.” The ad mostly splits between focusing directly on the environment and the Koch Brothers.

Watch the ad here:

As TPM previously first reported NextGen Climate Action has also directly gone after the Koch brothers for refusing to debate climate change, airing ads in the brothers’ homestate Kansas.

Not making their chief issue the single subject of attacks this cycle is actually part of a larger strategy for the group, founded by Steyer who is boosting the organization with as much as $100 million this cycle.

In Colorado, NextGen has billboards up attacking Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the Republican nominee for Senate, on birth control and same-sex marriage. The billboards, according a release flagged by The Denver Post “remind Western Slope voters of Congressman Gardner’s reckless views on women’s health, marriage equality and climate science denial.”

In Iowa, NextGen Climate has attacked state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), the GOP nominee there, for supporting deep tax cuts and policies encouraging outsourcing. In July the group released an ad attacking Ernst, one of the GOP’s star candidates this cycle, for signing on to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

These may seem like tangents for a climate change group but strategists for NextGen say that there are a set of topics that voters who are interested in climate change also care about.

It’s the idea that “climate fits very neatly into a series of issues that define the Republican band as being extreme and out of touch,” NextGen Senior Strategist Chris Lehane said in a conference call on Wednesday. “And so in Colorado we have focused on using climate to frame the Republican Cory Gardner as an extremist and our advertising includes climate and includes choice and includes same-sex marriage and links all of them as three proof points to make the point that Republicans are fundamentally out of touch.”

Lehane ticked off the roughly three or four issues that lump together with climate change: the Koch brothers, same-sex marriage, and contraception.

“The first is really a message that is a straight on climate is happening and being impacted in a negative way,” Lehane said. “Category two is what I refer to as generally speaking as the tobaccoization message and that is linking polluter money to a Republican candidate. That’s exactly what the Koch brothers are and that is explicitly a bullseye climate message.”

Lehane also mentioned gun control in some states.

“In some states they can also involve gun safety, depending on the state you’re in,” Lehane said. “But those three or four issues all are effectively proof points of the larger troglodyte brand that you certainly just can’t trust the Republicans, you can’t give the keys to the car, turn over the state to them, turn over the Senate to them because they’re just not trustworthy in terms of doing the right thing.”

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