Businessman Tom Steyer defends status in 2020 race, drawing contrast with Bloomberg on wealth tax

Steyer has invested over $40 million of his own money into his campaign.

December 13, 2019, 11:45 AM

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer joined ABC's 'The View' Friday to discuss the latest in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, all while defending his position as a largely self-funded candidate.

Steyer, the California billionaire and early proponent of the impeachment of President Donald Trump has sunk over $40 million of his own money into his campaign through television ads and staff. Yet, he is still struggling to emerge as a true contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

PHOTO: Tom Steyer is seen on "The View."
Tom Steyer is seen on "The View."
ABC News

He drew a contrast with his fellow billionaire and competitor for the Democratic nomination, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, scolding him for his lack of support for a wealth tax on the assets of some of America's wealthiest citizens.

"If he isn't willing, as rich as he is, to talk about a wealth tax, given the incredible income disparity in this country that is at the heart of inequality and unfairness and injustice. If he isn't willing to go for a wealth tax to go back and redress some of the mis-allocation of money over the last 40 years ... then I don't think he represents the Democratic [Party]," Steyer said.

The former hedge fund manager, along with fellow billionaire Bloomberg, has taken on criticism throughout the campaign for what his fellow contenders for the nomination say are his attempts to buy his way onto the debate stage through massive ad buys instead of grassroots campaigning.

"I don't think as a Democratic Party, that we should say that the only way you're going to get elected, the only way you're going to be our nominee is either if you are a billionaire or if you're sucking up to billionaires," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another 2020 hopeful, said in an interview with Bloomberg News earlier this month.

PHOTO: Tom Steyer is seen on "The View."
Tom Steyer is seen on "The View."
ABC News

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has also weighed in on the issue of billionaire's joining the presidential race, pointing out a lack of diversity among the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination.

“I’ve seen the bile, the anger, from my family members, to people in the Congressional Black Caucus, to leaders of color across this country who just don’t understand how we’ve gotten to a point now where there’s more billionaires in the 2020 race than there are black people,” Booker said in an interview with BuzzFeed News following Bloomberg's entry into the 2020 race.

He was also pressed by the co-hosts on whether or not he believes the potential impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will be fair and necessary given the signals given by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"I've always felt that the court that matters in terms of impeachment and removal of the most corrupt president American history is the court of public opinion and the people who matter are the people of the United States," Steyer said.

Steyer has defended himself from attacks on his billionaire status by pointing to his commitment and investments to Democratic causes and grassroots organizing efforts.

"If you look at my history for the last decade, when I think there’s something really wrong, in the United States of America, I organize around it, I put my time, effort, heart and soul into it, and I spend money on it,” Steyer, who founded the political groups NextGen America and NeedToImpeach, told reporters earlier this month in South Carolina.

He continued to defend his choice to spend millions on television ads to boost his name recognition, telling co-host Meghan McCain that while his ads run nationally, he has been focused on in-person campaigning in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

PHOTO: Tom Steyer is seen on "The View."
Tom Steyer is seen on "The View."
ABC News

"This is not an election, it's a series of elections ... and I've been spending my time in the early primary states, not nationally," Steyer said.

Despite his poll numbers that remain in the single digits nationally, Steyer, who originally passed on a 2020 bid, has garnered enough support to appear in the last two primary debates, and has also qualified for next week's debate in Los Angeles.

Steyer discussed his recent plan to increase investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, and reiterated his support for reparations for American descendants of slaves.

"I'm so intent on strengthening [HBCUs] and making sure that we make a substantive and symbolic statement about what we care about, in terms of past discrimination and racism," he said on the show.

Steyer was also prodded on his signature red plaid tie that he has worn at almost every campaign event and debate thus far.

"Well first of all I have worn a red plaid tie for 20 years and people have explained to me for 20 years that I have no taste, and I wanted to go along with that," he joked.