Bil­lion­aire Tom Steyer’s im­peach­ment ads are a waste of money

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - PERSPECTIVE - By Jennifer Ru­bin

The more the mer­rier in the pres­i­den­tial race should be the gen­eral rule for a party not in power and ea­ger to re­claim the White House af­ter mul­ti­ple years in the wilder­ness. How­ever, I draw the line at self-ab­sorbed bil­lion­aires with no gov­ern­ing ex­pe­ri­ence who throw their money around on van­ity projects.

I’m not talk­ing about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, for now, but pro­gres­sive mon­ey­man Tom Steyer.

The New York Times re­ports: “Tom Steyer, the Cal­i­for­nia bil­lion­aire who has cru­saded for Pres­i­dent Trump’s im­peach­ment, said on Wed­nes­day that he would not join the pack of Democrats run­ning for pres­i­dent in 2020.” In­stead, he will con­tinue run­ning those im­peach­ment ads. “Un­der­writ­ten by Mr. Steyer’s per­sonal wealth,” the Times re­port con­tin­ued, “the im­peach­ment cam­paign has bom­barded tele­vi­sion and com­puter screens around the coun­try with ads de­mand­ing Mr. Trump’s ouster, and staged proim­peach­ment events around the coun­try.” He’s spent tens of mil­lions of dol­lars al­ready and plans to spend $40 mil­lion more.

I don’t share Demo­cratic Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren’s aver­sion to self-funded can­di­dates. A can­di­date such as for­mer New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would add a lot to the 2020 race, has well-thought-out po­si­tions on im­por­tant is­sues and would be qual­i­fied to serve as pres­i­dent.

How­ever, I cer­tainly do ob­ject to un­qual­i­fied dilet­tantes tak­ing up space and po­lit­i­cal oxy­gen. (In fact, put me down as against any pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who has zero mil­i­tary or civil­ian ser­vice.) Steyer’s de­ci­sion not to run there­fore is good for the coun­try and the Demo­cratic Party. It is also far from cer­tain that he would have won many votes.

“Steyer made his vast for­tune as the founder of a hedge fund, and his port­fo­lio of in­vest­ments in­cluded con­sid­er­able stakes in fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies,” The New York Times re­port noted. “As a wealthy white man, he could have been an awk­ward cul­tural match for a party in­creas­ingly de­fined by de­mands for racial and gen­der equal­ity, and eco­nomic pop­ulism.”

How­ever, it is ridicu­lous, de­plorable even, for him to spend tens of mil­lions of dol­lars on an ut­terly use­less cam­paign to im­peach Trump, re­gard­less of whether you fa­vor im­peach­ment. Trump ei­ther will or won’t be im­peached af­ter the re­port from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller is com­pleted; law­mak­ers and the pub­lic won’t be in­flu­enced by Steyer’s an­noy­ing, ubiq­ui­tous ads — fea­tur­ing him­self! — but by what’s in the re­port, Trump’s po­lit­i­cal stand­ing and the re­ac­tion of vot­ers.

Steyer’s fi­nan­cial waste­ful­ness is his own con­cern, I guess, but the moral vacu­ity of spend­ing money on such an os­ten­ta­tious ac­tiv­ity is matched only by Arab sheikhs eat­ing gold. (Re­ally, that’s a thing now.) Imagine the chil­dren who could be ed­u­cated, the fam­i­lies fed, the shel­ter and men­tal health ser­vices pro­vided to the home­less, the dis­eases erad­i­cated, the species saved and the men­tors hired for $40 mil­lion.

Even if you wanted to spend your money on pol­i­tics, why not do some­thing half­way pro­duc­tive? Regis­ter new vot­ers, pro­mote civics ed­u­ca­tion, run a cam­paign to end ger­ry­man­der­ing or finance me­dia literacy. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. (It should be noted that Steyer did spend on ac­tiv­i­ties such as voter turnout, but he chooses to blow tens of mil­lions more on his van­ity pro­ject.)

Oh, and I have one ques­tion for the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist mogul: Why did he add to his car­bon foot­print by fly­ing to Iowa to an­nounce he wasn’t run­ning for pres­i­dent?

The Wash­ing­ton Post

Jennifer Ru­bin is a Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist.

CHAR­LIE NEIBER­GALL/AP

Demo­cratic ac­tivist Tom Steyer’s tens of mil­lions in ads will have no in­flu­ence on the law­mak­ers em­pow­ered to im­peach the pres­i­dent.

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