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Billionaire environmentalist intends to take on 2016 GOP presidential field, including Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio


Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer plans to pour more of his fortune into defeating Republicans who deny man-made climate change, this time in the 2016 presidential race -- despite having limited electoral success last year.

NextGen Climate Action, Steyer's San Francisco-based political committee, announced Monday that it intends to target GOP presidential contenders in battleground states by highlighting their position on climate change and linking them to the billionaire industrialist brothers, Charles and David Koch.

Chris Lehane, NextGen's chief strategist, wouldn't tell reporters on a conference call how much Steyer is ready to spend, saying only it will be "what it takes" to "disqualify" any candidate who denies climate change or that it has been worsened by humans.

Last year, only three of seven governor and Senate candidates backed by NextGen won their races. The group spent heavily against Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who was nevertheless re-elected.

Lehane said NextGen learned from 2014 and plans to build on its existing political donors and volunteers for 2016, a presidential year where voters tend to be younger and more liberal -- and so care more about environmental issues. The states the group plans to zero in on are Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire, he added.

Lehane specifically mentioned Miami -- along with Tampa; Charleston, South Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia -- as cities that "could literally and figuratively be underwater" if the next president doesn't take on the climate change issue.

Asked specifically about the group's view of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Lehane characterized him as "no different" than other Republicans who question humans' responsibility for climate change, despite having governed the state perhaps most vulnerable to the threat of rising seas.

And Lehane hinted the group might disrupt -- or at least somehow be present -- at Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's likely presidential announcement next week. NextGen plans a "lie-detector test" stunt timed with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's announcement this week.