Have you noticed the recent spathe of commercials from Tom Steyer, self-described American citizen calling for the impeachment of Trump?  Have you wondered who he is, where he came from, and how he affords the estimated $10 million worth of prime time spots on all the major cable networks? Here’s the answer.

Steyer is one of America’s 549 billionaires, and perhaps the most recent to emerge front and center to put his wealth behind political causes rather than just health and welfare charities.  An ex hedge fund manager, he grew up in New York, graduated from Yale, lives in San Francisco and is reputed to be considering a run for either governor or senator of California in 2020.

Some consider him an adversary of the Koch brothers, balancing to some degree the millions they pour into right wing causes. It should come as no surprise that Steyer is definitively left, having founded NextGenAmerica to support climate change, pro-immigration and health and education causes.  We, at Little Hinges, have to love NextGen’s statement on its home page: “There’s no such thing as an action too small.”

That said, Steyer seems to believe more in acting big as shown by his Impeach Trump spots. If you’ve missed them, here’s the first one on YouTube, which has already gotten more than 1.5 million views.

Bernie Sanders, not a billionaire, certainly gets the credit for bringing our collective attention to “the billionaire class,” and its affects on politics.  But, wealth in politics is not new. Consider Nelson Rockefeller (Republican), the Kennedys (Democrats), and FDR and Teddy Roosevelt (Democrat and Republican respectively).  What may have changed, however, is the concept of Noblesse Oblige, with America’s wealthiest dedicating themselves to socially responsible causes as an obligation because of their fortunate circumstances. Consider that Teddy Roosevelt is considered America’s conservationist president and most aligned with preserving and growing our national parks system, something in direct contrast to Trump’s most recent move to reduce land assigned to two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in Utah. It has been called “the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.”

Related Post:  Monument & Statues – Not All Icons Are Created Equal

Another billionaire in politics is Sheldon Adelson, the largest single donor to the Trump inaugural committee and owner of an Israeli newspaper, providing little wonder why Trump recently named Jerusalem the capital of Israel, a cause close to Adelson’s heart.  So if politics is a billionaire’s game, should we mere mortals be playing at all? Is it like sitting at the Black Jack table at one of Adelson’s Venetian or Sands casinos considering a $100 win a big deal when he’s taking home millions?

The issue may not be money as much as transparency, an issue close to Bernie Sander’s heart. They key, according to Bernie, is not to forego your rights as a citizen and change our democratic nation into an oligarchy, a form of government where all power rests with just a few people. Or, as the saying attributed to Deep Throat in the Nixon scandal goes: “Follow the Money.” When supporting a candidate, cause, or nonprofit institution, it’s important to know where the money is coming from that supports him, her or it.  What can you do as the little guy?

Here are some Little Hinge Action Ideas:

  • Learn more about campaign finance reform. You might find some surprising heroes in the movement such as John McCain.
  • Always vote. It’s the action that billionaires are either trying to get you to stop or encourage you to do. So, regardless of the billionaire in your camp, it always comes down to your vote.
  • Check The Giving Pledge list created by Buffet and Gates to encourage billionaires to donate half their fortunes in their life times. Steyer is on the list. Trump is not. Consider aligning yourself with billionaires who give back rather than those that don’t.
  • Don’t Gamble.  Most casinos are owned by Republican magnates, but if you do gamble choose your casino wisely.  MGM and Fertitta (Golden Nugget) lean Republican but supported Hillary. Icahn (Tropicana) and Adelson (Sands) are firmly in Trump’s court.
  • Stay invested in the system. It’s hard to see the value in donating $10 to a political cause when Steyer can send millions to the same campaign. His investment certainly makes a difference, but so does a community of small investors.  It was the engine behind Sanders campaign, and if it didn’t make a difference, the campaigns wouldn’t work so hard to constantly divest you of your $10.
  • Keep calling.  Your senators and representatives are your duly elected officials. A phone call to their offices is free. It gets registered and takes less than 5 minutes. Keep letting them know how you feel and what’s important to you.