Billionaire Steyer Enters Crowded 2020 Presidential Race

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer speaks during a news conference in Washington, Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CN) – Billionaire Tom Steyer threw his hat in an already crowded ring of Democrats on Tuesday, announcing a run for the presidency in 2020.

After swearing off the race in January during a trip to Iowa, Steyer did an about-face to take on President Donald Trump and corruption.

“I think what people believe is that the system has left them,” Steyer said in a video announcing his candidacy. “I think people believe that the corporations have bought the democracy.”

Along with the populist message, Steyer has long been a strident advocate for environmental issues, donating large chunks of his considerable fortune to various initiatives and candidates for office.

He pledged to spend more of his money on a presidential bid.

“Tom has committed to spending at least $100 million on this campaign,” said Alberto Lammers, a campaign spokesman.

Steyer has made a name for himself in Democratic circles over the past year with frequent calls to impeach Trump. He appeared at the California Democratic Convention and demanded the U.S. House of Representatives draft the articles of impeachment to significant applause.

In the video announcing his candidacy, Steyer did not mention impeachment. Instead, he took a page out of the book fellow candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren read from, decrying the plutocratic elements of the American body politic while saying Trump has abetted rather than fought the accompanying corruption.

His video showed a catalog of individuals in the Trump orbit who have since been swept up in criminal investigations or prosecutions, including Paul Manafort and Jeffrey Epstein.

But Steyer spent most of the time talking about systemic problems, including how the corporate profit motive prevents necessary action on climate change, harms people with mortgages and has fueled the opioid epidemic.

“Almost every single major intractable problem, at the back of it, you see a big money interest for whom stopping progress, stopping justice is really important to their bottom line,” Steyer said.

Sanders and Warren have shown there is a large audience for this message, but it remains unclear if Steyer is the appropriate vessel for its delivery.

The 62-year-old billionaire comes from wealth and made most of his money as a hedge fund manager in the halls of finance. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, continues to fixate on matters of identity like racial and gender equality, with many questioning whether an elderly white male – like front-runner Joe Biden – is the best standard bearer for a party preoccupied with diversity.

Steyer is likely to face similar problems without the legislative accomplishments or political clout.

Nevertheless, he has made a name for himself running outside the political establishment. He has railed against Democrats for failing to impeach Trump, and he threw his weight behind U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s opponent in 2018, saying California needed a more progressive voice.

Furthermore, Steyer has made no secret about harboring other long-term political ambitions, openly talking about potential runs for U.S. Senate while also sporadically eyeing the governor’s office in the Golden State. The calculation could be that a presidential bid, even if it falls short, will be enough to sufficiently raise his profile with voters.

One thing is certain, Steyer brings a considerable war chest and is sure to spend it in an attempt to infiltrate a race already chock full of candidates who have spent the past months expressing ideas and messages not all that different from those he unveiled Tuesday.

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