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Donald Trump campaigns in North Carolina and Pennsylvania on Friday. Hillary Clinton heads to the battleground state of Ohio.

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Clinton campaign worried about aligning too closely with Tom Steyer

When Hillary Clinton plotted her presidential run in early 2015, one question that gripped her key advisers was how big of a role to give California billionaire and climate change activist Tom Steyer.

The campaign decided that aligning Clinton too closely with Steyer could be damaging, new emails disclosed by WikiLeaks show.

At the time of the discussion in February of last year, soon-to-be campaign chairman John Podesta already had unsuccessfully lobbied President Obama to appoint Steyer his secretary of Energy. Now, Steyer was asking “whether he can have a formal campaign role like California co-chair,” according to a Podesta email that WikiLeaks disclosed Friday. The campaign is declining to confirm the authenticity of any of the hacked Podesta emails.

This particular message was written right before Steyer was to meet with Clinton, and Podesta was briefing her top aides on how to prepare. Podesta signaled that Steyer would be unlikely to drill down on Clinton’s plans for a carbon tax or for funding research into green technology, or even to press her on the Keystone pipeline, the fossil fuel project Steyer was taking a lead role in fighting and which Clinton had yet to come out against. But Podesta warned Steyer was likely to want clarity on what his role with the campaign would be.

Future campaign manager Robby Mook expressed concerns about giving Steyer a California chair position. “My gut: Don’t give him a title. He will be the story. Arch rival to the Kochs. His views may differ from hers.”

Mook also worried that Steyer’s playing such a role in the Clinton campaign while at the same time pouring tens of millions of dollars into his own climate change-focused political operation, Next Gen, would open Clinton to accusations of violating the spirit of campaign finance law. “The optics of a chair bankrolling independent work is not great.”

Podesta’s response was brief — and cautionary. “Maybe,” he wrote. “Could be leaving a lot of $ on the table.”

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