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
Ben Geman and Clare Foran
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Ben Geman and Clare Foran
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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