Inside a Green Billionaire’s Brain Trust

Tom Steyer introduces a panel during the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on August 13, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 
National Journal
Clare Foran Ben Geman
June 10, 2014, 1:20 a.m.

Bil­lion­aire en­vir­on­ment­al act­iv­ist Tom Stey­er wants to put cli­mate change front and cen­ter in Amer­ic­an polit­ics and he has as­sembled an all-star team of Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ives in his bid to do it.

The list of play­ers work­ing with Stey­er’s Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate group is full of high-powered vet­er­ans who’ve held im­port­ant po­s­i­tions in some of the Left’s biggest vic­tor­ies of the past two dec­ades — in­clud­ing op­er­at­ives in Pres­id­ent Obama’s 2008 elec­tion win and ad­visers in the Obama and Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Some have played pub­lic roles in Stey­er’s in­creas­ingly high-pro­file, big-money push to make glob­al warm­ing a top-tier is­sue in sev­er­al 2014 con­tests and battle the Key­stone XL pipeline. Oth­ers, such as the mas­ter­mind be­hind Obama’s pivotal 2008 vic­tory in the Iowa caucuses, have done their work be­hind the scenes.

The team will ad­vise Stey­er as Nex­t­Gen pours a planned $100 mil­lion — half of which will come out of Stey­er’s own pock­et — in­to the 2014 elec­tions, money aimed at elect­ing can­did­ates who will push ac­tion to ad­dress glob­al warm­ing. Nex­t­Gen re­cently an­nounced its in­volve­ment in four battle­ground Sen­ate races, ran­ging from Col­or­ado to Iowa, as well as three gov­ernor’s con­tests.

Here’s a look at some of the strategists, com­mu­nic­a­tions ex­perts, and polit­ic­al ad­visers work­ing to turn Stey­er’s dreams in­to polit­ic­al real­ity.

Chris Le­hane is the chief strategist for Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate.

Le­hane is a seasoned Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ive known trans­lat­ing op­pos­i­tion re­search in­to bit­ing com­mu­nic­a­tions cam­paigns aimed at un­der­cut­ting polit­ic­al ad­versar­ies.

He worked as the press sec­ret­ary for former vice pres­id­ent Al Gore dur­ing his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign in 2000. Le­hane also served out a brief stint as the com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or for John Kerry dur­ing his un­suc­cess­ful run for the White House.

Le­hane cut his teeth on polit­ic­al com­mu­nic­a­tions strategy in the Clin­ton White House, where he worked to de­fend the ad­min­is­tra­tion in the face of scan­dals, at­tacks, and in­vest­ig­a­tions.

Sky Gal­le­g­os is Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate’s polit­ic­al dir­ect­or.

Gal­le­g­os held a vari­ety of po­s­i­tions in the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­clud­ing as­so­ci­ate policy dir­ect­or for in­ter­gov­ern­ment­al af­fairs dur­ing the pres­id­ent’s second term in of­fice. She also worked as deputy polit­ic­al dir­ect­or for the state of Cali­for­nia dur­ing Clin­ton’s 1996 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign.

Gal­le­g­os worked as the polit­ic­al dir­ect­or for the Kerry cam­paign in Cali­for­nia in 2004. She also served as deputy as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for in­ter­gov­ern­ment­al and ex­tern­al af­fairs at the En­ergy De­part­ment in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Paul Tewes is a polit­ic­al ad­viser to Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate.

Tewes is a seasoned Demo­crat­ic hand with the Smoot Tewes Group, a polit­ic­al-con­sult­ing firm led by strategists who have worked on Pres­id­ent Obama’s cam­paigns and in the ad­min­is­tra­tion, but of­ten with Demo­crat­ic re­sumes that go back much fur­ther.

He’s cred­ited with en­gin­eer­ing Obama’s 2008 win in the Iowa caucuses, which dealt a ma­jor blow to then-rival Hil­lary Clin­ton’s White House bid that year. Tewes later over­saw Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee op­er­a­tions for Obama dur­ing the 2008 cam­paign.

Earli­er in his ca­reer he played ma­jor roles with the Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, as well as Sen. Maria Can­t­well’s close 2000 elec­tion in Wash­ing­ton State and former Wis­con­sin Sen. Russ Fein­gold’s 1998 win, ac­cord­ing to the Smoot Tewes web­site.

Nick Baldick is a polit­ic­al ad­viser to Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate.

Baldick served as cam­paign man­ager for former Sen. John Ed­wards’s White House bid dur­ing the 2004 cycle. He was state dir­ect­or of Al Gore’s vic­tori­ous 2000 New Hamp­shire primary cam­paign and later was a seni­or ad­viser dur­ing the Flor­ida re­count, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of Hill­top Pub­lic Solu­tions, the pub­lic-af­fairs and polit­ic­al-con­sult­ing firm he foun­ded.

Even fur­ther back, Baldick played key roles in both of Bill Clin­ton’s White House runs, serving as a field or­gan­izer in 1992 and help­ing to en­gin­eer Clin­ton’s 1996 win in Flor­ida.

More re­cently Baldick was coun­sel to New York City May­or Bill de Bla­sio’s suc­cess­ful 2013 cam­paign. Oth­er cli­ents in­clude the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tion­al Uni­on and the Demo­crat­ic At­tor­neys Gen­er­al As­so­ci­ation.

Josh Fry­day is Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate’s chief op­er­at­ing of­ficer.

Fry­day worked for John Ed­wards in his ef­fort to se­cure the Demo­crat­ic pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion in 2004 and 2008, first as the cam­paign’s na­tion­al youth and vo­lun­teer dir­ect­or and later as cam­paign dir­ect­or in North­ern Cali­for­nia.

He has also served as a lieu­ten­ant and mem­ber of the Judge Ad­voc­ate Gen­er­al’s Corps for the U.S. Navy.

Justin Buell is the dir­ect­or of de­vel­op­ment for Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate.

Buell worked as a con­sult­ant for the Obama pres­id­en­tial cam­paign in 2008, and served as Utah field dir­ect­or for the Kerry cam­paign in 2003.

He has served as a mem­ber of the Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee’s na­tion­al fin­ance coun­cil. Buell also serves on the ad­vis­ory board for Or­gan­iz­ing for Ac­tion, a polit­ic­al ad­vocacy group that grew out of Obama’s pres­id­en­tial cam­paign.

Heath­er Wong is the com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or for Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate.

Wong worked in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion as deputy as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for pub­lic af­fairs at the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment. She also served as the spokes­wo­man for the Treas­ury De­part­ment.

Udai Ro­hatgi is the policy dir­ect­or of Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate.

Udai served in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion as a seni­or ad­viser at the En­ergy De­part­ment. Ro­hatgi also worked on com­mu­nic­a­tions and out­reach dur­ing Obama’s first run for the White House in 2008.

Be­fore join­ing Nex­t­Gen, Ro­hatgi was a dir­ect­or at a smart-grid data-ana­lyt­ics com­pany based in the Bay Area.

Josie Mooney is a stra­tegic ad­viser to Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate.

Mooney is a long­time labor-move­ment ad­voc­ate whose past jobs in­clude spe­cial as­sist­ant to the pres­id­ent of the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tion­al Uni­on.

Ted White is a long­time friend and busi­ness part­ner of Tom Stey­er.

White has worked for many years as a cor­por­ate at­tor­ney and is cur­rently a name part­ner at the Den­ver law firm Moye White LLP. White is also man­aging part­ner of Fahr LLC, a group that works to sup­port Stey­er’s phil­an­throp­ic ven­tures and policy ad­vocacy work.

Mike Ca­sey is the founder and pres­id­ent of Ti­ger­comm, a clean-tech me­dia-re­la­tions and mar­ket­ing firm.

Ca­sey over­sees Ti­ger­comm’s work for Stey­er against the Key­stone XL pipeline, which has in­cluded ads and polling. The firm re­cently handled the re­lease of a former Navy SEAL com­mand­er’s ana­lys­is that called Key­stone a po­ten­tial ter­ror­ist tar­get.

Ca­sey also wrote the com­mu­nic­a­tions plan for Nex­t­Gen’s in­volve­ment in the Mas­sachu­setts spe­cial elec­tion to sup­port Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate can­did­ate Ed Mar­key and the group’s cam­paign in the Vir­gin­ia gubernat­ori­al race to elect Demo­crat Terry McAul­iffe.

Ben Wessel is a polit­ic­al as­so­ci­ate at Nex­t­Gen Cli­mate.

Wessel pre­vi­ously worked as a re­gion­al field dir­ect­or for Cory Book­er’s Sen­ate cam­paign. He also worked as the New Hamp­shire youth-vote dir­ect­or for the Obama cam­paign dur­ing the pres­id­ent’s second run for of­fice.

Wessel has also worked as a policy cam­paign man­ager at 350.org, a group at the fore­front of the anti-Key­stone cam­paign.

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