According to Politico, billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer is building a "digital army" whose goal is simple: impeach President Donald Trump.
Steyer, who made billions of dollars as a hedge-fund manager prior to his retirement in 2012, has been a longtime donor to Democratic politicians and progressive causes. Steyer spent more than $91 million to elect Democrats in 2016 alone. Since the election of Donald Trump, Steyer has developed something of an obsession with the idea that Trump should be impeached. Steyer has already spent $20 million of his own money on a series of television commercials — mostly aired on cable news networks — calling for Trump to be impeached.
Steyer alleges that Trump's decision to terminate James Comey as director of the FBI constitutes "obstruction of justice" and is thus an impeachable offense. He also alleges that Trump should be impeached because the president has continued to take money from foreign governments since taking office.
Thus far, Steyer has had little or no success bringing even elected Democrats from safe blue seats around to his point of view. When Al Green (D-Texas) introduced articles of impeachment via a privileged resolution earlier this month, Democratic leadership publicly rebuked the move, and the resolution attracted a total of only 58 Democratic votes.
In order to apply pressure on Democrats to change their mind, Steyer announced earlier this year that he would not donate to any Democrat in 2018 who did not support impeaching Trump.
While his television campaign and donor money hasn't yet moved the needle with elected Democrats, Politico reports that his efforts have allowed him to assemble an army of digital activists that rivals the size and influence of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders', which is widely considered to be the gold standard among liberal activists.
According to Politico, Steyer has built a list of almost 4 million activists through impeachment petition signatures on his site, NeedtoImpeach.com. Steyer has announced a goal of 5 million signatures, and he appears ready to spend any amount of money that is necessary to achieve that goal. If he is ultimately successful, the size of his email list will rival Sanders', which is estimated at just over 5 million names.
The amount of money Steyer has poured into the effort, combined with the influence that an active email list of this size can generate, promises to make Steyer a player in the 2018 elections. Steyer may end up playing a similar role on the Democratic side to Steve Bannon on the Republican side: threatening credible primary challenges against any Democrat who does not support his agenda. Of course, while Bannon's primary litmus test promises to be loyalty to President Trump, Steyer's litmus test for Democrats will be their willingness to vote to impeach Trump.
Politico reports that many Democratic operatives also expect Steyer to enter the political fray personally, either to run for office in his home state of California, or to mount a possible run for president in 2020. If he does ultimately decide to run, he faces long odds: a recent poll conducted by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies showed him with low name recognition and support even in California.