- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 5, 2016

DENVER — San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, the left’s answer to the free-market Koch brothers, is spending heavily in swing-state Colorado entering the pivotal 2016 election.

A report released Tuesday by Denver’s Independence Institute found that Mr. Steyer’s NextGen Climate PAC sunk more than $357,000 into polling and research last year in Colorado, home to a number of key election-year contests.

Mr. Steyer, who made a splash in 2014 by spending $74 million to support Democratic candidates in an effort to combat climate change, has not commented publicly on his campaign plans since June, when he told a crowd at a Conservation Colorado fundraiser that “the next 17 months are totally critical,” the Denver Post reported.

“It’s painfully obvious that Tom Steyer is spending big — and planning to spend much, much bigger — to influence Colorado elections in 2016,” said Simon Lomax, associate energy policy analyst for the free-market Independence Institute, in his report. “But the San Francisco billionaire is hiding from questions and feels no pressure to fully disclose his intentions for our state. We’ll see how much longer he can get away with it.”

In Colorado, Mr. Steyer’s estimated $8.5 million in spending failed to save Democratic Sen. Mark Udall from defeat in 2014. His group is expected to support Sen. Michael Bennet, this year’s most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbent.

In addition, environmental groups are making a push to place anti-fracking measures on the November ballot, despite the opposition of pro-fracking Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who headed off a similar effort in 2014.

Democrats are also hoping to wrest control of the state Senate from Republicans, who hold the chamber by just one vote.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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