Founded in 2013, NextGen America is a business name of NextGen Climate Action, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit and multi-issue advocacy organization headquartered in San Francisco, California. It was established by billionaire leftist Tom Steyer, a major funder of radical environmentalism who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination.
NextGen’s IRS informational filing states that the organization’s mission is to “prevent climate disaster,” “promote prosperity,” “protect [the] fundamental rights of every American,” and help lead “the fight for immigrant rights, affordable health care, climate justice and equality.” The mission statement provided on the “About Us” page of the group’s website explains that in order to achieve the foregoing objectives, NextGen aims “to build the grassroots power in key [battleground] states and districts to elect pro-climate Democrats into office.” Toward that end, NextGen seeks to “identify, engage, and mobilize people under the age of 35 who are less than likely to vote or who are not currently registered to vote” – because young adults, when they do vote in political elections, tend overwhelmingly to support Democrats.
Shortly after the group was created, NextGen spent $1 million on television ads opposing the construction of Keystone XL pipeline. When the Obama administration rejected the pipeline in late 2015, NextGen produced an online ad rejoicing at the decision and promoting renewable energy. The group also opposes coal production.
In the 2016 election cycle, NextGen worked with SEIU International and Planned Parenthood Votes to mobilize Democratic voters in New Hampshire as a part of a $2 million effort that highlighted left-of-center issues such as the $15-per-hour minimum wage, anti-global warming strategies, pro-abortion policies, and the purported need for increased unionization. The objective, according to Steyer, was to defeat presidential candidate Donald Trump and Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire). Trump emerged victorious, but Ayotte ended up losing her Senate seat.
In 2016 as well, NextGen, as part of its #WhyWeVote campaign, produced ads featuring Hollywood entertainers aiming to persuade millennials to vote for Democrat candidates who vowed to use the power of government to combat global warming. One ad featured comedian Aziz Ansari assailing Donald Trump because, in Ansari’s words, “he hates brown people” and supposedly did not believe in potentially catastrophic climate change. Comedian actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus made a video for NextGen in which she endorsed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Katie McGinty (Pennsylvania), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nevada), Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire), and Deborah Ross (North Carolina).
NextGen supports open borders and all that they entail. In 2017 the organization spent $2.3 million to, in its own words, “support the ability of immigration legal services organizations to increase their capacity and meet the increased demand for immigration legal services.” The following year, NextGen gave $1 million to the Immigrant Legal Services Center — to help provide illegal aliens with legal representation designed to shield them from deportation.
During the 2018 midterm election cycle, NextGen donated $12.9 million to Democrat candidates, satellite spending groups, and “Section 527” organizations, making it the election cycle’s 29th largest contributor (out of 19,225 active organizations identified by OpenSecrets.org).
In 2018 as well, NextGen dispatched some 750 staffers and 15,000 volunteers to flood more than 400 college campuses, knock on nearly a million doors, and transmit approximately 3 million text messages urging young people to vote. As Forbes magazine reported, NextGen in 2018 “registered over a quarter of a million voters between the ages of 18 to 35 in 11 states, paying particular attention to 40 congressional swing districts…. According to NextGen, of the 40 congressional districts its program targeted, around 60% of those House seats flipped from Republican to Democratic.”
NextGen spent approximately $5.2 million trying to elect congressional Democrats in the crucial battleground state of Florida during the 2018 election cycle. The organization also backed Andrew Gillum, who ran unsuccessfully for governor, early in the process. Specifically, NextGen claims to have made more than 75,000 telephone calls and sent 300,000 texts to promote Gillum in the primary election.
Also in 2018, NextGen criticized U.S. Reps. Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher, both California Republicans, for supporting offshore oil drilling. Similarly, the group campaigned against John Morganelli, a Democrat, in Pennsylvania’s 7th U.S. House District Democratic primary, attacking him for his pro-life and anti-illegal-immigration policy stands.
That same year, NextGen launched its Black Lives Rising (BLR) initiative, which spent more than $1 million to mobilize young black Democratic voters (after turnout among young blacks had fallen in 2016). “For too long, black youth have been denied a seat at the table, but with the rise of young black leaders like Ayanna Pressley, Andrew Gillum, Mandela Barnes, and Justin Fairfax, a new era of inclusive politics is emerging,” Tom Steyer said at the time. “Black Lives Rising will engage young black voters on campus and in communities to make their voices heard and their impact undeniable in November and beyond.”
Jeremiah Chapman, identified by NextGen as the “creator” of Black Lives Rising, described BLR in 2018 as “a historic, revolutionary investment in the power of young black voters.” He continued: “That power has been oppressed and undermined throughout American history, and this program is a nod to our ancestors who died from the injustice of a system complicit in racism. I believe that, by going to the polls to demand our respect, we are living out those ancestors’ wildest dreams of black representation and political power.”
Black Lives Rising worked with other left-wing groups, including Color Of Change PAC, PushBlack, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), in an effort mobilize voters in the battleground states of North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
On November 18, 2019, NextGen announced an initial investment of $45 million “to launch the largest youth organizing campaign in American history ahead of the 2020 presidential election.” The goal was to use “on-the-ground field organizing on campuses and in communities, innovative digital tactics, and experiment-informed direct mail” to register, engage, and mobilize young voters (ages 18-35) in 11 battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The ultimate objective was “to remove Donald Trump from the White House, flip the Senate, and elect progressives up and down the ballot.”
Between 2014 and 2018, NextGen made grants to many organizations, including such notables as the World Wildlife Fund, the United Nations Foundation, the Tides Foundation, 350.org, the NALEO Educational Fund, the Center for American Progress, the Roosevelt Institute, the Earth Day Network, and the Voter Participation Center.
In 2018, NextGen America had 103 employees, according to its IRS informational filing for that year. It took in just under $54 million in grants in 2018, up from almost $19.5 million the year before.
NextGen Climate Action is NextGen America’s super PAC. During the 2020 election cycle, the former spent $12,580,405 in independent expenditures, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Out of that total, $11,830,119 was spent to elect Democrats, while $550,286 was spent to defeat Republicans.
NextGen America’s executive director is Ben Wessel, who, during the 2020 election cycle, opined that young voters seemed to prefer Joe Biden over incumbent President Donald Trump because Trump, in their view, was dishonest. “Old is way, way better than liar,” said Wessel. As the Biden presidential campaign’s election-related efforts wound down during the days that followed Election Day, and it appeared that Biden had won the controversial race, Wessel on November 13 wrote on Twitter: “Today is the last day for so many hardworking and brilliant state staff at @NextGenAmerica. Because of them, 2020 had the highest #youthvote turnout EVER and we elected @JoeBiden, @KamalaHarris, and progressives down-ballot. I’m so immensely proud to have been on their team.”
Wessel has worked for NextGen since March 2014, first as Deputy Political Director and Youth Vote Director, and then (from July 2019 onward) as Executive Director.
Before that, Wessel spent 5 months in 2013 as Regional Field Director for the U.S. Senate campaign of Cory Booker, and 6 months that same year as Policy Campaign Manager for 350.org. And from March to December of 2012, Wessel was the New Hampshire Youth Vote Director of Obama For America, which later changed its name to Organizing For America.