Tom Steyer stepped down as head of his investment firm in 2012 to dedicate all his time to philanthropy and political action focused on making America more just and prosperous.
Tom and his wife, Kathryn Taylor, known as “Kat,” were among the first to sign The Giving Pledge — a commitment to give away the bulk of their personal fortune during their lifetimes.
In 2013, he founded NextGen America, a nonprofit group that combats climate change, promotes social justice and enlarges participation in our democracy. In 2017, Tom became the first major Democrat to rally millions of Americans with a public call to impeach Donald Trump.
In the recent midterms, Tom led the nation’s largest grassroots voter-turnout effort, including increasing youth voting with NextGen organizers at hundreds of colleges and mobilizing Need to Impeach’s 6-million-plus petition signers. All these voters contributed to Democratic wins that took back the House, won Senate seats and governorships, and captured state legislatures and local races.
“We need the broadest democracy possible,” Tom says, ”to reverse the hostile corporate takeover of the government that stole the rights of everyday Americans and walled them off from their dreams.” Only a broad-based grassroots movement can restore power, fairness and prosperity to the people, he says. Tom’s vision for achieving this is based on a new set of 5 Rights that every American must have.
Across the country and in his home state of California, Tom has repeatedly helped win fights for fairness against entrenched corporate interests. He funded successful California campaigns to protect the state’s landmark clean-air laws and followed that up with wins for clean energy in Michigan and Nevada. He backed an initiative that closed corporate tax loopholes, generating at least $1.7 billion for public schools. He co-chaired the effort to force tobacco companies to finally start paying their fair share of healthcare costs.
Tom and his wife have devoted hours of their time and donated tens of millions of dollars to charitable projects that advance education, renewable energy, clean air and water, healthy food, sustainable agriculture, self-sustaining communities and more.
Their charitable foundation powered the birth of “California Food for California Kids,” a program that now serves more than 300 million healthy meals yearly to the state’s school kids using natural food from California farms.
Another charitable project is Beneficial State Bank, which since 2007 has loaned money affordably to working people, small businesses and nonprofit community projects shut out by regular banks. Tom and Kat have given more than $120 million to building the bank, which reinvests any profits back into the communities it serves. Their support of the bank is ongoing.
Tom and his two older brothers grew up in New York City, taught by their mother and father to believe a strong moral sense is the essential foundation of a good life. Tom graduated from Yale and earned his MBA at Stanford. Working on Wall St. was not for him, so he moved to San Francisco in 1986 and started his own investment firm. Backed by two seasoned investors, Tom started managing the new fund, which launched with $9 million in assets. Over the years, Tom achieved double-digit returns for his investors — universities, foundations and individuals. His success attracted as much as $36 billion in investment at the fund’s peak. The fund’s high rates of return generated large profits for his many investors and made Tom a billionaire.
Tom is 61. He and Kat have four grown children. San Francisco has been their home since 1986.