Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s campaign ads get weird

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Billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer is dumping millions into campaign ads this year, attacking Republican lawmakers he deems unfriendly to the environment.

But Steyer’s colorful and sometimes bizarre advertisements — the latest of which shows Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst in the pocket of creepy cigar-chomping business tycoons — are drawing mixed reviews.

“These ads are the political equivalent of Miley Cyrus’ ‘twerking.’ Light on substance, heavy on camp and self-indulgence. Kind of what you’d expect from a ‘look at me’ billionaire like Steyer,” charges Pete Snyder, former head of New Media Strategies and current CEO of Northern Virginia-based venture capital firm, Disruptor Capital.

But Steyer, an environmentalist and longtime Democratic activist — who according to The New York Times accumulated $1.5 billion in personal wealth during his former career as a hedge fund manager — says he is happy to wield his vast fortune to attack climate change naysayers. A well-funded media blitz is the best weapon in the arsenal, his supporters say. This was the idea behind his $100 million NextGen Climate super PAC campaign announced in May.

“Our goal is very clear — to impact the politics as it relates to climate change,” Chris Lehane, Steyer’s political adviser, told reporters during NextGen Climate’s unveiling.

Steyer says he will invest $50 million of his own cash and help raise the rest. The group is hoping to compete with billionaire industrialists and conservative philanthropists, Charles and David Koch, who in January announced the formation of a new super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund, which aims to spend more than $15 million in the 2014 midterm campaigns and $290 million overall to support free market, conservative candidates. The related Americans for Prosperity plans to spend $125 million this year and already has run ads against Democrats who support ObamaCare.

Steyer, like the Kochs, is no stranger to political campaigns — he even spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and reportedly spent $11 million for Terry McAuliffe’s successful gubernatorial bid in Virginia last year. But lately his ads have been drawing fire from Republicans, not only for their over-the-top caricatures, but their questionable accuracy.

A Steyer-funded ad designed to attack the XL Pipeline project in 2013 was abruptly pulled before it aired on a local NBC affiliate. The ad starred an apparent parody of a giddy Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, sliding down the pipeline like a playground slide, yelling “yippee!”

NBC said it violated its guidelines, which find any “attack of a personal nature, a direct attack on an individual business or a comment on a private dispute,” unacceptable for airing.

But the attempt at satirical humor is obvious in the Steyer-funded bits.

“In this day and age you have to be over-the-top to get the attention.

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