Evil Progressive Donors Part II: The Steyer Brothers

Former Senate majority leader Harry Reid attacked billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch almost daily from the floor of the U.S Senate --- 134 times to be exact --- vilifying their efforts and donations to elect conservative candidates. He even labeled such private citizens as "unAmerican." Despite his distaste for politically active billionaires, Reid and his counterparts regularly accept hordes of money from billionaire supporters. According to the federal election commission, Democrats raised $250 million more than Republicans in 2014. In fact, you'd have to go back to the election of 2004 to find Republicans outperforming Democrats in fundraising. In this serial, we follow the trail of cash leading to the most influential progressive donors, revealing the true agenda behind their donations.

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Evil Progressive Donors Part II: The Steyer Brothers

It's likely you've never heard of the Steyer brothers. However, Jim Steyer and his billionaire brother Tom have donated millions --- if not hundreds of millions of dollars --- to their favorite Democratic causes. While progressive liberals regularly attack Republican donors, Democrat donors get a pass. Why? Because big money donors like Tom and Jim Steyer support liberal causes and candidates.

Tom Steyer, formerly an "evil" hedge fund manager and "villainous" executive at Goldman Sachs, donated $5 million in 2014 to the Senate majority super PAC run by Harry Reid's former aides --- a drop in the bucket to his pledge of $100 million to influence elections and kill the Keystone pipeline. He wound up donating about $75 million and was, by far, the largest single individual spender in the midterm elections. Liberal Michael Bloomberg was a distant second at $40 million.

Despite donating millions to liberal causes and elections, Steyer has been an outspoken critic of the Supreme Court decision to allow big money to enter politics, describing Democrat donors as the "small shepherd boy with five rocks and a sling" compared to a Goliath-sized Republican money-making machine. However, the facts belie this claim.

In 2008, according to the ABC news, then Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama raised and spent over $770 million compared to challenger John McCain's $238 million --- more than triple. In 2012, President Obama became the first candidate in the history of the world to raise over $1 billion --- $1,123,000,000 to be exact. According to a political analysis of the top 100 donors during the midterm election, Democrats received $174 million and Republicans received $40 million. Democratic donors routinely gave more to political campaigns while supporting the perception that Republicans buy elections.

Tom Steyer's biggest crusade has been climate change, despite the fact his vast fortune was made primarily from huge investments in oil and coal. One major investment was a pipeline rivaling the Keystone pipeline. When his heavy investments in oil, coal and competing pipelines came to the attention of the media, he instructed brokers to divest from all fossil fuels. Doubt still remains as to whether the divestment ever took place.

It has been estimated that Steyer funded over the years CO2 production equivalent to about 28% of the total amount of CO2 produced in the United States by coal burned for electricity generation. Additionally, his personal "footprint" matches the size of his bank account.

Steyer's primary home overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco --- on each of its three stories. With an estimated value of $11.7 million, the home sits on a cliff with beautiful vistas, wrecking the area for all wildlife. He also has a second home in San Francisco for a total combined 11,000 square feet in the city. Add to that his humble, $8.5 million beach home in Marin County, his $2.6 million Sugar Bowl ski resort home in California and two homes at a Lake Tahoe ski resort, respectively valued at $15 million and a more modest $1.1 million. And last, but not least, Steyer owns a 2,000-acre California ranch --- worth an estimated $23 to $50 million --- where his wife keeps her show horses.

No honest capitalist would begrudge a billionaire of his luxuries. But when said billionaire makes a massive carbon footprint while preaching about catastrophic climate change and spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to influence elections and climate legislation, that sounds more like a man living in a glass house, casting around some mighty big stones.

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This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!