Billionaire green donor launches U.S. millennial voter drive

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer’s super PAC launched a $25 million youth voter drive on Monday in seven political battleground states to help elect candidates that champion climate change policies in November’s general election.

Investor, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer speaks at the Center for American Progress' 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington November 19, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Steyer’s NextGen Climate super PAC, a political group that raises funds to boost candidates with strong environmental platforms, said the campaign aims to boost turnout of millennials, who have become one of the largest potential voter groups.

In the lead-up to the November general election, NextGen will deploy hundreds of organizers across over 200 colleges to register young voters and facilitate on-campus voting.

“We are determined that they will be a difference maker,” Steyer told reporters on a conference call.

The group is targeting seven battleground states where Steyer said millennial voters could “make up the difference in a tight race.”

Those states are Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Illinois and Colorado.

Steyer has been the second largest individual political donor in 2016, having spent $13 million so far this year, according to

NextGen said the number of registered millennials has nearly tripled since 2008 from 17.2 million to 50.3 million, making the demographic a key political force in 2016.

Climate change and clean energy is an area where there is widespread millennial interest.

NextGen cited a June 2015 poll that found that 73 percent of young voters want the United States to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

The group has not yet announced which candidates it will endorse in the presidential or congressional races but said it has challenged all candidates to say how they would achieve a goal of hitting a 50 percent clean energy target by 2030.

He said the air and water impacts of fracking, a controversial drilling technique that has been responsible for a boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production over the past decade, shows the U.S. needs to make a faster transition away from fossil fuels.

Steyer said NextGen will spend around $25 million on the months-long campaign and will launch several other initiatives later in the election cycle.

Steyer’s PAC in 2014 aimed to make climate change into a wedge issue in the 2014 midterm elections, spending over $70 million with mixed results.

But with millennial voters turning out in record numbers in the 2016 primaries, Steyer sees a formula for success.

“We need to make sure to carry on that momentum until November,” he said.

Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Chris Reese