MANCHESTER, NH — On Wednesday, the day the U.S. Senate voted to acquit President Donald J. Trump in his impeachment trial, the man who led the Need to Impeach campaign was in the city promising voters he can take him down.
“How many of you have ever been to a trial where there are no witnesses?” Tom Steyer asked a standing room only crowd Wednesday evening at the To Share Brewing Co. on Union Street. “Really. Think about where we are right now here in the United States of America. I honestly think the time for listening to the baloney out of Washington, D.C. is 100 percent over.”
Steyer is a self-made billionaire, a philanthropist, a climate change activist and a man who for 35 years, with his wife Kat Taylor, through his church has helped immigrants in San Francisco.
He grew up in New York City, attended Phillips Exeter Academy, graduated from Yale University summa cum laude in economics and political science and earned his MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.
In 1986, he founded Farallon Capital Management, a hedge fund company that manages $20 billion in capital for institutions and high net-worth individuals. He retired from Farallon Capital in 2012 and focused on the environment and politics. He started NextGen America, a nonprofit organization supporting progressive positions on health care, immigration, climate change and education.
In 2010, Steyer and his wife signed The Giving Pledge to donate half their fortune to charity in their lifetime.
Steyer said people refer to him as a rich person as a way to denigrate him. But he said he doesn’t view himself that way.
When he started his company, his parents didn’t give him a dime. His mother was from Minnesota and ended up as a teacher who taught in New York City’s public schools. After she retired, she volunteered to tutor prisoners at the Brooklyn House of Detention.
“So this is not some fancy person from Mar-a-Lago,” he said to laughter. His father was an attorney who enlisted in the U.S. Navy in World War II and because he was already a lawyer, he was made assistant to the chief prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.
“My family has a history of looking evil in the face,” he said. “This is not the first time that someone named Steyer has ever seen the head of a country do the wrong thing. Let me say that it is not a fluke that I started the Need to Impeach movement.”
That brought applause from the crowd. His father, he said, told him the Germans did not stand up to Hitler and the Nazis. They thought they could control it and instead they let it happen.
“It ended up in a place that is unimaginable,” he said. “This could end up in a place that is unimaginable.”
Steyer said corporations own the government. Affordable healthcare, quality public education, a clean environment and a living wage he said, are rights and not something people should have to fight for.
“Does anyone in this room think it’s okay for a corporation to poison your kids to make more money?” he asked. “That’s insane. That is where we are. So that is why I’m running for president. It’s simple. Corporations own the government.”
Steyer said this week showed the best reason for term limits. “Six words. Mitch McConnell. Lindsay Graham and Chuck Grassley. Term limits,” he said.
The Californian is also for legalized marijuana, open borders, taking criminal action against polluting corporations, overturning Citizens United and adding more jurists to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He said he built a multi-billion, international company over 27 years and walked away from it to organize people to take on the corporations. He’s battled the oil industry, utility companies across the country and prevented the last fossil fuel plant that was green-lighted in California from being built.
“They’re not that smart,” he said to laughter. “There are tens of millions more of us than there are of them.”
His number one priority, he said, is climate change because “we don’t have a choice. I will declare a state of emergency on climate change on my first day in office.”
He said he will start with environmental justice and initiate a program that will create over 4.5 million, well-paying unionized jobs.
To defeat Trump, he said, he has to be beaten on the economy, which he said is the President’s only campaign issue.
“We have a bad, incompetent President. We know all that. It’s up to us. I’m asking you for your support. I can promise you I can take this guy down,” he said to loud applause.
Trump, he said, told a roomful of people in Florida in December that he knows they don’t like him and he doesn’t like them. But, he said, they’ll vote for him because if Democrats get control of this economy they’re going to destroy the economy in 15 minutes.
“That’s his campaign. In Iowa, he said if you don’t vote for me your farms are going to hell,” Steyer said. He called the president a “fake” and a “big fat liar.”
“Is it a good economy that grows slow and all the money goes to the richest people?” he asked. “Is it a good economy when you have a low unemployment rate but people can’t live on the jobs so they have to work two or three jobs?
“It is working perfectly for the people at Mar-a-Lago. It is working perfectly for big corporations but we have a 40-year trail of tears for working people around this country and we are going to have to take it back and it is going to be a big, fat fight,” he said.
Eric Robinson of Milford, who attended the Town Hall, said he likes Steyer and his campaign to impeach Trump.
“I think that’s great,” he said. “He’s a real billionaire. I think he’ll give Trump a run for his money.”
Lynn Pekalsky of Newton hasn’t decided who she will vote for on Primary Day but said she is a fan of Steyer’s.
Outside, Frank Huntley of Worcester, Mass. displayed his art piece, “Pill Man,” a skeleton made from his medicine bottles that once held Oxycotin and methadone, the medication he took for 15 years. He is on the campaign trail to try and stop the opiate addiction.
The pain killers were prescribed for him after he underwent two surgeries. That led to his addiction that he said destroyed his life and devastated his family.
“For 15 years I did nothing but worry about pills,” he said.
He’s been clean for six years after going “cold turkey.” When he did, he was down to 125 pounds. Today, he weighs 185 pounds and is healthier but said side effects from the drugs have taken a toll on his body.
“Now it’s my mission to walk the planet and show people what these drugs are doing,” he said.