WASHINGTON — If you’ve watched cable news recently, you’re probably familiar with the $20 million ad campaign by California billionaire Tom Steyer urging the impeachment of President Trump. Perhaps you were even among the 4 million or so who signed his online “Need To Impeach” petition, showing your support for ousting Trump and, incidentally, adding your name to a mailing list that could be of great value to a progressive political candidate.
And in a possible clue who that candidate might be, Yahoo News has discovered that a policy adviser at a think tank indirectly funded by the outspoken progressive has registered a series of web domains for potential future campaigns, all involving Steyer.
Keeping all options open, the aide, Jeff Lyng, a senior policy advisor at Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy, has registered 11 websites using combinations of Steyer’s name and various political offices, including TomSteyerForPresident.com, TomSteyerForGovernor.org, and Steyer4Senate.org.
No content was ever published on the sites.
Steyer, 60, is a leading political megadonor and has given millions to Democrats and to various liberal groups. He has been the subject of persistent rumors that he might run for office in his home state of California. Steyer, who lives in San Francisco, made his fortune as the founder of the hedge fund Farallon Capital Management. His October impeachment campaign fueled speculation that he might mount a White House bid, as did a television commercial that largely consisted of the billionaire speaking directly to camera. Last month, in a C-SPAN interview, Steyer confirmed his interest.
“I haven’t ruled it out, and I’m actually trying to determine what will have the most positive differential impact,’’ Steyer said. “I’m absolutely ambitious … to try and be part of the group of people who gets America back on a just and prosperous course.”
Asked about the campaign web addresses, Erik Olvera, head of communications for Need To Impeach, said Steyer was not aware of them.
“We didn’t know about the domain name purchases. It goes to show the amount of growing interest and support for Tom and what he’s doing,” said Olvera.
In a conversation with Yahoo News on Tuesday evening, Lyng described the web addresses as his “own personal guess.” He called them “an investment on my part” based on public speculation that Steyer might be “running for those roles.”
“I’m not at all involved whatsoever in any sort of campaign,” Lyng said.
Lyng said he has never met Steyer, although the think tank he works for, the Center for the New Energy Economy, was founded in 2011 with funding in part from the Energy Foundation, which in turn has received funding from charitable trusts operated by Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor.
That funding isn’t the only link between Lyng, the Center for the New Energy Economy and Steyer. The center is led by Bill Ritter, the former Democratic governor of Colorado, and Lyng served as an adviser on energy policy in Ritter’s administration from 2007 until 2011. Ritter, who is chair of the Energy Foundation’s board of directors, has also served on the board of Advanced Energy Economy, a group that was co-founded by Steyer in 2011. In 2014, Ritter moderated an event at Steyer’s home that included governors and major donors.
Ritter said he knew nothing about the domains. He also said the center is “not involved in political activity” and added that he has seen Steyer “only two times” in the past year.
For his part, Lyng insisted he registered the domains on his own and, in a follow-up phone call, claimed he relinquished them after hearing from Yahoo News.
“It was a dumb thing I did and I regret it,” said Lyng.
Read more from Yahoo News: