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Megadonor Steyer vows to only back candidates that support abortion rights

ATLANTA — Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer said on Saturday that he and his NextGen America group do not intend to work on behalf of anti-abortion politicians, jumping into the Democratic Party’s ongoing debate on the topic.

“We’re pro-choice,” the hedge fund manager-turned-activist told POLITICO on the sidelines of the progressive Netroots Nation conference here.

Asked if his group would help candidates or sitting lawmakers who don’t support abortion rights, he said, “We do not work for a single candidate who is not pro-choice. I think people like to have litmus tests. We are explicitly pro-choice. We work a lot with Planned Parenthood, we work a lot with NARAL. We are absolutely committed to it.”

Those comments put Steyer — the Democratic Party’s single largest donor in recent cycles thanks largely to the money he’s put in the NextGen super PAC — on the side of activists who have been dismayed by comments made recently by some party leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Ben Ray Lujan.

They have suggested at times that the party need not have a litmus test on abortion, spurring considerable controversy about which candidates to fund ahead of 2018’s midterm elections.


Now, the word of the party’s biggest funder is likely to weigh heavily on the debate.

Steyer also pointedly refused to rule out a run for office — including the presidency or a statewide role in California — in the near future.

“Particularly subsequent to November 8, 2016, the idea of not being fully involved in this seems to me to be — I don’t know how I would do that,” he said. “The only question is not how to do the biggest thing, but have the most differential impact to what otherwise would happen."

After spending over $165 million on Democrats in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles, he has long been considered a potential self-funding contender for 2018’s gubernatorial race in California.

But as other candidates, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have been running large-scale campaigns for months, Steyer has stayed away. He demurred when asked about getting into the race, choosing to heap praise on Gov. Jerry Brown instead when pressed on his feelings about the other candidates.

“The best thing I can say is people do not realize how good Jerry Brown is, full-stop,” he said. “If you ask me about anyone else, it’s sort of like: Do you know who hit third for the San Francisco Giants after Willie Mays retired? How’d it go for him?"

Asked about the potential for pursuing Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) seat if she chooses to retire ahead of a 2018 re-election bid, he demurred again.

“I don’t think Dianne’s going to retire,” he said. “Look, I promise: There is nothing that I would not do in order to have the most impact.”

And, finally, pushed on the likelihood of his pursuing the White House, he replied: “I keep telling you I’m not ruling anything out."