Tom Steyer to spend more on anti-Trump ads, remains undecided about running for office

Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

LOS ANGELES -- Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer said Thursday that he planned to double his spending on his impeachment campaign against President Donald Trump to $20 million.

"The American people have responded beyond our expectations to this message, and it's clear we're giving voice to the deep concerns about this president," Steyer told reporters on a conference call.

He said in addition to millions of viewers of the "Need to Impeach" group's television ad, 1.3 million people have watched it on YouTube and 1.9 million have signed a petition calling for the president's removal from office. "We're doubling down on our effort."

Steyer said the group plans to unveil two new television ads in the coming weeks.

Asked about the concerns among some Democrats, notably House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, that the impeachment message distracts from their efforts in Washington and goal to retake the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, Steyer said that his effort was not about campaign tactics.

"I think what we're trying to do is give a forum and a voice to the American people to register their concerns and fears about what this president is doing," he said. "We think what we're doing is the morally right thing to do."

Steyer has long flirted with running for office, most recently a challenge of fellow Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The impeachment campaign, which featured the former hedge fund manager speaking directly to the camera and soberly laying out why he believes the president should be removed from office, has spurred speculation that he was trying to increase his name recognition among voters. Feinstein has also faced criticism from California liberals for refusing to publicly back the idea of impeaching of Trump.

Steyer said he had not ruled out running for office.

"What's we're doing on the ground around the United States and on this campaign right now, that is taking up all my time," he said. "I'm evaluating (running), but I don't feel like I have to make a decision right now."

A new University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times poll released Thursday showed that Steyer has a long way to go if he does decide to challenge Feinstein.

Roughly three-quarters of registered voters do not know enough about Steyer to form an opinion about him. In a three-way race, Feinstein won the support of half of registered voters who plan to cast a ballot in the primary, state Senate Leader Kevin de Leon won the backing of nearly a quarter and Steyer trailed at 17 percent.

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