Who is Tom Steyer, and why does he think he can bully Massachusetts politicians? The California hedge-fund mogul waded into the Commonwealth’s Senate race this week, sending Democratic candidate Stephen Lynch a letter instructing him to drop his support for a controversial pipeline project “by high noon on Friday, March 22,” or face an aggressive campaign paid for by the billionaire.
The Keystone XL pipeline, which Steyer and Lynch’s Democratic rival, Ed Markey, oppose but Lynch supports, is a serious issue deserving serious debate. But it shouldn’t be reduced to a litmus test, especially under the threat of an onslaught of unregulated campaign spending. Both Lynch and Markey have agreed to block outside groups from advertising in the race under the so-called “people’s pledge.” Steyer may seek to evade that pledge by focusing on other forms of political spending — such as “guerrilla marketing” and door-to-door campaigning — but his threat against Lynch surely violates the spirit of the pledge. Markey should tell Steyer to back off.