By Fred Lucas
Published April 10, 2018
Billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer’s “Need to Impeach” campaign sent out guides to more than 5,100 Democratic candidates across the country just two weeks before the first of a dozen Democratic primary debates his group, NextGen America, is bankrolling.
While NextGen and Need to Impeach are separate entities, the timing indicates the California billionaire and political activist hopes ousting President Donald Trump before the end of his term will be a significant campaign issue in the 2018 midterms.
“Tom’s impeachment campaign is run out of Need to Impeach, which is a separate entity,” NextGen America spokeswoman Aleigha Cavalier told Fox News. “The topics of the debate will be on issues that matter to young people — which can definitely include impeachment — but that’s not the focus.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller hasn’t presented findings yet on a long-running investigation into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Nonetheless, the nine-page Steyer guide contends impeachment is good politics and says “making this case can boost turnout among the Democratic base.”
“Nothing is preventing Democrats from promoting an agenda focused on building a fairer economy, improving the health care system and creating a more equal and just society — while also underscoring the need to impeach this president,” says the guide, which refers to Trump as “one of the gravest dangers our country has ever confronted.”
The first of Steyer's “Keeping Up With the Candidates” debates will revolve around Pennsylvania's newly drawn 7th Congressional District; Democratic candidates are set to face off Thursday in Fegley’s Brew Works in Allentown to benefit the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. (Each NextGen-bankrolled debate will be in a venue that attracts younger voters and will raise money for local progressive causes, according to the organization.)
The May Pennsylvania primary involves the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, with district lines redrawn in response to gerrymandering litigation. Pastor Greg Edwards, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Allentown Solicitor Susan Wild are among the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination.
“Panicked Democrats know the vast majority of Americans disagree with Steyer, but it’s not stopping the billionaire from demanding that 5,171 candidates pledge their loyalty to his baseless effort,” Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement. “Democrats also face the looming specter of Steyer-sponsored debates that will undoubtedly press candidates on impeachment.”
Steyer’s group also plans to sponsor debates in Pennsylvania’s redrawn 5th Congressional District, where the GOP’s Rep. Pat Meehan is retiring; in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, where Rep. Barbara Comstock is considered vulnerable and where part of Washington's suburbs are represented; and in California’s 39th District, where Republican Rep. Ed Royce is retiring.
Cavalier said NextGen doesn’t yet have information for additional debates.
In commenting on the debates in a news release, Steyer didn't mention impeachment. “As millions of young people enter the political debate, they deserve a chance to be represented by elected officials who will address their concerns, discuss their ideas, and take action on the issues that affect their lives,” Steyer said in a statement.
“In 2018, young voters will be critical in races across the country, and it is time progressive candidates pay attention to the youth vote.”
Steyer spent $20 million promoting his “Need to Impeach” effort in TV spots last year. In December, 58 House Democrats voted to bring an impeachment resolution up for debate. The measure failed with opposition from Democratic leadership.
Steyer’s impeachment guide lays out multiple alleged Trump offenses. For instance, it reiterates familiar allegations that Trump and his campaign colluded with Moscow to win the 2016 election. It also asserts that the president obstructed justice in firing FBI Director James Comey, and that he has violated the emoluments clause to enrich his businesses.
The document further asserts as impeachable offenses that Trump advocated violence in his comments on the fatal riot in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, and that he abused his power in pardoning Joe Arpaio, the ex-sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., in a criminal contempt of court case arising from Arpaio's handling of illegal immigrants.
The Steyer guide further maintains that Trump has endangered U.S. peace and security with taunts aimed at North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un; that he has directed law enforcement to investigate political enemies; and that he has undermined press freedom by, among other things, calling journalists the “enemy of the American people.”
In Pennsylvania, the 7th Congressional District is a swing district, while the 5th Districtsis likely to lean Democratic, said Kyle Kopko, a political science professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
Tom Steyer is "making a strategic decision to tap the anti-Trump vote. But the Republicans could do the same thing for their base if this is a referendum on impeachment.”
Kopko added that said there is a calculated risk for Democrats with invoking the specter of impeachment in 2018.
“Steyer has gotten a lot of recognition, and he could view impeachment as a way of mobilizing Democratic voters in November,” Kopko told Fox News. “He’s making a strategic decision to tap the anti-Trump vote. But the Republicans could do the same thing for their base if this is a referendum on impeachment.”