“He’s the most corrupt president in American history and we all know it,” proclaims Steyer in one ad. He warns “Congress should start impeachment proceedings now” in another video.
Steyer isn’t some actor or paid activist; he’s a billionaire. The “Need to Impeach” campaign is funded largely through his vast personal fortune.
Of the $15 million raised by “Need to Impeach” ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, $12.2 million came directly from Steyer, who has previously pledged to spend up to $40 million working to remove Trump before 2020. (All dollars are U.S.)
For the record, Trump has already branded him as a “weirdo.”
Before he was Mr. Impeachment, the environment was Steyer’s big focus.
He railed against the Alberta oilsands and the Keystone XL pipeline, as the top political donor on environmental issues in the United States and a key backer of former president Barack Obama.
(It’s worth noting, some of his fortune came through managing a hedge fund that invested in fossil fuels, until Steyer left and divested his interests in oil and gas.)
READ MORE: More Democrats calling for impeachment proceedings against Trump (From May 2019)
As of January 2019, Steyer and his wife Kathryn had given more than $238 million to Democratic causes and left-leaning candidates.
In other words, Steyer is a man who likes a good fight, and he’s not afraid to put his money where his mouth is.
Now with the field of Democratic candidates seemingly locked-in, the businessman has decided to shake things up, announcing his own self-financed bid for the 2020 nomination, reversing his own earlier decision not to run.
WATCH: Tom Steyer, billionaire who wants Trump impeached, launches 2020 bid
In a video explaining his political aspirations, he portrayed himself as an outsider while slamming corporate influence in politics from drug companies, big oil, and banks.
“I think people believe that the corporations have bought the democracy,” said Steyer in the video, adding “what we’re doing is trying to make democracy work by pushing power down to the people.”
Steyer has pledged to spend $100 million of his own money on the campaign — that’s more than the combined total raised by top candidates Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris in the last three months.
The message here is that he won’t be beholden to big donors, special interests or corporations. Steyer is also unafraid to scrap with members of his own party.
He has blasted Democratic Party stalwarts like Sen. Dianne Feinstein, while publicly lashing out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “normalizing” Trump’s presidency by holding back on impeachment.
Some of it sounds almost Trumpian: a politically-inexperienced billionaire with a contempt for traditional politicians; an outsider who is happy to serve as a provocateur.
But the comparisons stop there.
Steyer has been motivated by specific issues and has previously toyed with entering politics.
Now he’s uniquely positioned to change the dynamics of the Democratic race for president.
So far, the other candidates have barely spent anything on TV ads. They’ve preferred to use their limited funds to mobilize supporters and build their campaign structure.
Steyer enters the race late but unconstrained by the need to fundraise.
While he’s unlikely to meet the qualifications to get a spot on stage in the second Democratic presidential debate in July, he has the money to crowd the airwaves with his message until the following debate in September.
The question is whether Democratic voters are interested in having a politically inexperienced billionaire as their candidate, essentially fighting fire with fire.
Other wealthy men have not found the going to be easy.
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg decided against running after weighing the odds. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz has paused the exploratory committee for his independent presidential campaign.
Steyer has something those men didn’t: grassroots organization.
His “Need to Impeach” petition has racked up more than 6.5 million signatures. He also founded NextGen America, a nonprofit that has focused on mobilizing and registering young voters on college campuses across the U.S.
Now, as he makes the leap from back rooms to the podium, he’s about to find out how far his money will take him.
Jackson Proskow is Washington Bureau Chief for Global National.