Hedge fund mogul co-chairs, antes up for No on 23

The Californians to Stop the Dirty Energy Proposition committee that’s opposing Proposition 23, the measure on November’s ballot to roll back the state’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law, today introduced a Bay Area hedge-fund mogul and philanthropist as its co-chairman.

Tom Steyer (photo from CNNMoney-Fortune)Tom Steyer, 53, is the founder and managing partner of San Francisco-based Farallon Capital, a $20 billion hedge fund; he’s also a managing director and executive committee member at Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based private equity investment firm.

Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, in 2009 gave $40 million to fund the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, where Steyer now serves on the governing board. The couple also founded OneCalifornia Bank, a sustainable community development bank, and the related OneCalifornia Foundation to support programs and grants to eliminate discrimination, encourage affordable housing, alleviate economic distress, stimulate community development and increase financial literacy. And the couple also helped found OneRoof, a social business designed to bring technology to rural India.

Steyer in 2008 ranked as No. 962 on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires with a net worth of about $1.2 billion, but dropped off the list in 2009 and 2010.

His inaugural act as the No on 23 campaign’s co-chair is to pony up $5 million for the cause – a massive sum for a committee that reported having $649,221.08 in the bank as of March 31 and has shown $1.45 million in big-ticket contributions since then.

“I’m very honored and happy to be co-chairing this with (former U.S. Secretary of State) George Shultz, who obviously has an incredible background in government and the private sector and academia,” Steyer told reporters on a conference call this morning. “He and I co-chairing this executive committee is a continuation of the bipartisan nature of this effort.”

“I personally come at this issue as a business person who cares about the economic future of California, who cares about the jobs in California as well as the environmental and security issues here,” he said.

Steyer said that as a professional investor for several decades, he knows investors don’t want rules changed in the middle of the game, but rather insist upon seeing a consistent commitment. The capital that has poured into California’s burgeoning green economy in recent years and is projected to increase enormously over the next decade will dry up in a heartbeat if voters roll back the existing law, he said.