Government 'corrupted by corporate money': Tom Steyer

Billionaire progressive activist Tom Steyer discusses his newly launched 2020 presidential campaign on "This Week."
7:54 | 07/14/19

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Transcript for Government 'corrupted by corporate money': Tom Steyer
Everyone should try Move Free Ultra. I'm not running for president at this time. Instead, I'm strengthening my commitment for impeachment. In 2019. Until house starts impeachment proceedings or Mr. Trump resigns. That's how we'll define success. That was billionaire activist Tom Steyer back in January, this week he became the 25th Democrat to announce a campaign for president in 2020. Joins us right now. So, what changed? You said that unless impeachment proceedings start or Donald Trump resigns you weren't going to run, but you're running. Neither one of those things happened. Look, in January I said I wasn't going to run at that time because I felt I had an obligation to push impeachment. I'm continuing to fund the need to impeach. I believe in January, we had 6 million people who signed. Now we have 8 million. I believe we won the argument -- Wait a minute, how can you say you won the argument. If you look at the polls, 59% of Americans say they oppose impeachment. I mean, how is is that winning? In fact, if you look at the trend, it's actually the number of opposing impeachment has grown. Jon, to have actual push the power down to the people. To have televised hearings. In the last 6 1/2 months, we have had one televised hearing which was Michael Cohen back in February. In fact, what we have been pushing for in terms of argument that this president is corrupt, we all now know that. The president is a danger to the country and the constitution of the American people. That argument we have won. It's hard to say you won, but if more of the public opposes the idea, now you have a barely a third of Democrats in congress saying they favor impeachment. It's a hard case to make. I don't think so. Every time we do research, Americans don't know the facts but when we present the facts very simply -- they all say same the thing, he's a liar and the cheat. If I did this, I'd be in jail. But get it on TV, let the American people see the facts and let them judge. That hasn't happened. It's failure of government because it could -- Okay, let's get to your campaign. You've been in less than a week and you've already received quite a bit of criticism from your now competitors. Let's take a look at some of it. Governor Steve bulloch said, you shouldn't have to be a billionaire to run for president. Elizabeth Warren said we need our candidates to compete to have the best ideas not just write themselves the biggest check. Bernie Sanders says billionaires trying to buy political power is nothing new but it's tiring no matter the political party. What is your response to this criticism? Very simply, we have a broken government. It's been corrupted by corporate money. We need to push the power back to the American people, retake the democracy, and I have been doing that successfully from the outside for ten years. If you look at my record, I have been taking on the oil companies directly, tobacco companies directly. I've been taking on the drug companies and winning. And I've also set up the biggest grassroots organization, nextgen, to organize people around the United States to win the election. I have more than 8 million people -- the question is, if we're going to take back this democracy, successfully done it from inside or a bunch of people from the Washington, D.C., the insiders reforming the government that's failing the American people. So, let's face it. The biggest thing you have going for you, you're going to spend more than $100 million, to get into the debates you'll also need to raise money, you need 130,000 donors. Are you goiing to be out there asking people to give money to your campaign? Absolutely. I know I need those donations. Of course we are. The real question here is, Jon, do I have a vision and explanation of what's wrong and practical? Instead of talking about 19 different policy issues and the nuances of those, there's a real question in front of the American people, which is the government is failing. How are we going to get any green new deal, any health care proposal in a government that's controlled by corporate money. Some say you're better off winning -- putting money into senate seats. Doing voter registration stuff. You can spend that $100 million a lot of other ways. Than your own campaign. Jon, it's interesting you said that. We're the people who registered the most voters in the united States. I guaranteed that I'll continue doing all the grassroots work we have been doing. When you say, we should do that, the answer is, thank you very much, we've done that. We're the people that have been doing that. I guarantee that I've continued doing that. You mentioned going after the coal and fossil fuel companies and there's no doubt that you have put a lot of money into that effort over the last few years. But your old hedge fund, the one you started, invested millions of dollars reportedly in coal mines and power plants in Indonesia, China, Australia, you basically built your fortune, did you not, in part through fossil fuels. Look, in our business we invested in every part of the economy, including fossil fuels. When I realized what a threat this was that we -- it was to our environment and to the people of the United States and people around the world I changed. I divested from all of that stuff. I left my business. I took the giving pledge. To give money to good causes. I'm asking every American to do exactly what I did. Okay. But, wait a minute -- Deal with the information and I have been pushing hard on climate change for over ten years, to realize the threat that it is. Everyone in the United States is involved in an economy that's fueled by fossil fuels. We need to make a change. Everybody has a record that's being looked at. I understand you sold your investments off in those fossil but "The New York Times" reported that the coal-related projects your firm bankrolled will generates tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution. For years, if not decades to come. Is Democrats going to rally behind somebody whose work continues to pollute the environment? What you put into effect continues to contribute to climate change? Jon, climate change is absolutely critical. It's an emergency. The United States needs to change as a society and we need to do a gigantic across-the-board investment to change how this society runs, what actually powers this we need to actually put this into the government, what I did ten years ago or 12 years ago I changed because I realized that in fact we need to have a completely different avenue. I have one. The country has to come along. I have been pushing for ten years, directly against those companies and I've been beating them. That's exactly what we need to do. Make a change, address those companies that dominate our politics, that don't let us do any of the things that we need to win. To do and win. That's what I have been doing from the outside successfully. Tom, thank you for joining us on "This week." We look forward to seeing you

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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